Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Matt Kemp sits in favor of Jay Gibbons
By Tony Jackson
PHILADELPHIA -- Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.
But unlike a three-game stretch in late June when Kemp was benched for three days for disciplinary reasons after he reportedly got into a brief dugout confrontation with bench coach Bob Schaefer, manager Joe Torre said his decision in this case was based solely on performance.
Not so much Kemp's performance as that of newly promoted outfielder Jay Gibbons, who started in place of Kemp for the second game in a row after going 4 for 5 with a home run and four RBIs after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday. Gibbons played left field with Scott Podsednik moving to center.
Kemp, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts on Sunday against Washington, the last time he started. Coming off the bench Tuesday night against the Phillies, he delivered a pinch-hit, two-run single in the seventh inning. It was Kemp's first pinch-hitting appearance of the season.
"We had a good result last night, so I just wanted to see if we can try to ride it as much as we can," Torre said. "Right now, it's all about winning games."
Torre said he informed Kemp immediately after Tuesday night's game he would be sitting again Wednesday as they walked from the dugout to the clubhouse and said Kemp appeared to take the news in stride.
"He shrugged his shoulders and said OK," Torre said. "He's got enormous talent. He has certainly been a big part of this team, and we're still looking for him to be a big part of this team. When you play 162, you have to get help from a lot of people. We're putting a lot of pressure on the likes of [Andre] Ethier, Russell Martin and Matty with the fact that Manny [Ramirez] has been on the disabled list three times."
Torre likened the situation to last season, when the Dodgers acquired veteran utility man Ronnie Belliard late in the season and Belliard got so hot at the end that three-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman Orlando Hudson, who would eventually win his fourth, was benched during the playoffs in favor of Belliard.
However, Torre said he was a long way from relegating Kemp -- who is hitting .260 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs but has struck out 120 times in 435 at-bats -- to a reserve role for the rest of the season.
"I'm not going that far down that road," Torre said. "I'm just looking to play it a day at a time right now. You don't just play with the same people all the time. If you want to win, everybody needs to contribute. Matty knocked in two runs [Tuesday] night. I just don't want to go too far down the road right now."
Castro called up
As expected, the Dodgers purchased the contract of veteran infielder Juan Castro from Albuquerque on Wednesday after putting shortstop Rafael Furcal on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 3, after Tuesday night's game.
Club officials were hoping Furcal, who hasn't played since leaving an Aug. 2 game against the San Diego Padres because of back stiffness, could avoid the DL, which is why the Dodgers were willing to play a man short for a week. But when Furcal tried to take ground balls and batting practice for the first time before Tuesday's game, his back tightened up again.
Both Torre and trainer Stan Conte were quick to say this wasn't a setback for Furcal.
"He is better, but he isn't better enough," Conte said. "Joe went as long as he could playing short. We kind of hoped [Furcal] could pinch hit [Tuesday], but we made the decision that it looked like too big a risk to put him in one time and lose all the retro days."
Asked whether he was optimistic about returning as soon as he becomes eligible on Aug. 18, Furcal was non-committal.
"I'll keep working hard," he said. "I'll keep doing all my work so I can get back as quickly as I can."
Castro, 38, is beginning his third stint with the Dodgers, the team that originally signed him out of Los Mochis, Mexico, in 1991. He was a key backup on the Dodgers' division-winning club last year, hitting a career-best .277 in 57 games. Castro was released by the Phillies last month and quickly signed by the Dodgers to a minor league contract.
Sherrill at the bat
Dodgers reliever George Sherrill said he had no intention of swinging at a pitch when he was sent to bat for the first time in his seven-year career in the ninth inning Tuesday night because Torre wanted him to stay in the game with the Dodgers leading 15-7. By not swinging, Sherrill managed to work a walk from veteran reliever J.C. Romero.
"I wasn't going to swing," Sherrill said. "That would have been pointless."
Sherrill said he used a bat from his own stock, which he said he has around in case of emergency but mostly gives away as souvenirs after the season. He didn't use any batting gloves because he doesn't have any. He also said that other than a couple of bunting sessions in early spring training, he never takes batting practice.
One thing that was noticeable was Sherrill actually took secondary leads off first base as the pitcher went into his delivery.
"Of course," he said. "You have to score from first on a double."
Anderson granted unconditional release
The Dodgers granted outfielder Garret Anderson his unconditional release. A three-time All-Star with the Los Angeles Angels, the 17-year veteran was designated for assignment Sunday to clear a roster spot for Gibbons, who replaced Anderson on the roster as the Dodgers' primary left-handed pinch hitter.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.