Saturday, June 11, 2011
Matt Kemp back in starting lineup
By Tony Jackson
DENVER -- Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp returned to the starting lineup on Saturday night against the Colorado Rockies after testing his left hamstring during an early workout and later during batting practice.
Kemp ran in the outfield and took fly balls before determining that the injury that caused him to be scratched from Friday night's lineup just before game time had sufficiently healed.
Kemp pinch hit in the ninth inning of that game and drove a home run, his 19th of the season, onto the concourse beyond the leftfield bleachers. The ball then bounced over a concession stand and into the Rockies players' parking lot below.
Meanwhile, Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake was out of the lineup because of a pinched nerve in his neck. He is listed as day to day.
Kemp said he had no plans to change the way he plays center field or runs the bases to protect the hamstring.
"It's kind of hard to take it easy out there,'' he said. "Me, I always try to go as hard as I can. You know when to run hard and when not to run hard.''
Kemp leads the Dodgers in practically every offensive category and entered play Saturday leading the National League in home runs, third in hitting (.332) and second in RBIs (54). He had started all but one game before Friday night.
By pinch hitting in the ninth, he extended the longest consecutive games-played streak in the majors to 269, but his absence through the first eight innings left a huge hole in what already is a less-than-imposing lineup.
"He has been so hot and so good, it's a really different lineup with him not in there,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We really don't have another four-hole guy.''
Blake has been experiencing neck soreness for the past couple of days, Mattingly said, and he felt it while fielding a bunt during Friday night's game. There are no medical tests scheduled for Blake at this point.
Blake already has been on the 15-day disabled list twice this season, first with an injury to his back and later with a staph infection in his left elbow that required surgery.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.