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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers insist that center fielder Matt Kemp is healthy even as his production continues to lag dramatically.
Kemp, in the second year of an eight-year, $160 million deal, was 0-for-5 Monday night in an 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels. He struck out four times, the first time he has done that in a game since 2010.
Kemp underwent left shoulder surgery in October to repair damage he sustained when colliding with a wall in Colorado last August.
"I would tell you, internally, that we're all assured that he isn't [hurt], you know? So, he's not," Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in an interview with 710 ESPNLA on Tuesday. "We can't really put our finger on it. We certainly can't blame it on that, because he assures us he's not hurt. The doctors, the trainers have all assured me that he's not hurt, that it's just something he's working through."
Kemp, the 2011 MVP runner-up to Ryan Braun, has been roundly booed in recent games at Dodger Stadium and theories about his struggles were flying around Twitter late Monday night. Is he still hurt and not telling anyone? Does he need his eyes checked? Is his confidence simply shot?
On Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly dropped him to fifth in the batting order, the first time he has started a game and batted anywhere but second, third or fourth since 2010.
Kemp is batting .253 with two home runs and 17 RBIs after 186 at-bats. He had a career OPS of .853 entering this season, and it is .637 this year. His offensive wins above replacement averaged 3.6 before this season and it is -0.4 this season.
Kemp continued to insist he is feeling healthy, though not necessarily comfortable at the plate.
"I've been giving away a lot of at-bats. I haven't really been helping my team too much," Kemp said. "So, I can't be mad at him for moving me fifth. Fifth ain't bad. There are some (RBI's) in the five-hole. Hopefully, I can get it going in the five-hole."
Mattingly said he has not considered benching Kemp or putting him on the 15-day disabled list, though two of the Dodgers' best prospects are outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, both at Double-A Chattanooga.
"We're going to need Matt. We've seen that lesson over the years. I just don't give up on guys," Mattingly said. "I'm not going to give up on Matt. Matt's going to get going."