Wednesday, May 8, 2013
When will Matt Kemp be whole again? Could be a while
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 1 storyline in the Los Angeles Dodgers' disappointing first five weeks has been a steady stream of punishing injuries. Coming in close second, though, has been the radical decline of Matt Kemp's hitting.
The two storylines intersect.
The Dodgers are increasingly convinced that Kemp's struggles are the indirect result of last August's shoulder injury and the surgery that followed in October. Through this season's first 32 games, Kemp has one home run and has a.681 OPS. Through 32 games last year, Kemp had 12 home runs and a 1.222 OPS.
History suggests it could be a while before Kemp is himself again. Not remote history, but the history of two players who get dressed about 50 feet from Kemp's corner locker in the Dodgers' clubhouse.
Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez each had surgery on his front hitting shoulder within the past three years and both have seen it affect their production in dramatic ways.
Gonzalez had a similar procedure to Kemp's in October 2010, shortly before he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. He hit 40 home runs in 2009, 31 in 2010, 27 in 2011 and 18 last year. He has made up for declining power with a shorter swing that works even better in the clutch. Remarkably, his OPS from 2006 to 2010 (.888) is virtually identical to his OPS since (.883).
Ramirez is another story. He underwent shoulder surgery in September 2011, a procedure that -- unlike Kemp's and Gonzalez's -- was not performed arthroscopically, but involved open incisions. Ramirez's OPS from 2007 to 2010 was .925. It is .771 since.
"Hanley told me it's not the same. It takes a while," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Maybe this is part of it. I don't know that. Matt's not having pain every day any more, but I don't know if that means he's totally back yet."
Kemp has suggested since spring training that his shoulder feels fine, but the Dodgers are beginning to wonder whether he picked up some bad habits while playing hurt last September.
"One thing I do know -- and family and friends have reminded me -- is I can still play baseball and I can hit," Kemp said. "It will come back."
It might be only a matter of time, but how much time?
Here are lineups for Wednesday night's game vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers trying to snap a six-game losing streak:
1. A.J. Pollock CF
2. Didi Gregorius SS
3. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
4. Cody Ross LF
5. Martin Prado 3B
6. Wil Nieves C
7. Gerardo Parra RF
8. Josh Wilson 2B
9. Wade Miley LHP
1. Dee Gordon SS
2. Nick Punto 2B
3. Matt Kemp CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
5. A.J. Ellis C
6. Andre Ethier RF
7. Juan Uribe 3B
8. Elian Herrera LF
9. Clayton Kershaw LHP