Dodgers Lineup:Crawford 7 M.Ellis 4 Gonzalez 3 Van Slyke 9 Hairston 5 Ethier 8 Federowicz 2 Hernandez DH Punto 6
The Dodgers have been essentially playing without Matt Kemp this whole season. The embattled center fielder has yet to bounce back to his 2011 form after undergoing shoulder labrum surgery last October, and now he has a couple more injuries plaguing him including numbness in his fingers due to a pitch off the elbow and a right hamstring strain suffered during the Dodgers 4-3 loss in Anaheim Wednesday night. Kemp aggravated the hamstring while chasing after a double to the gap hit by Mike Trout. Smartly, Kemp signaled for the athletic trainer and was removed from the game instead of possibly causing the injury to worsen by staying in. Kemp, who is no stranger to hamstring strains, is listed as day-to-day and will undergo an MRI on Thursday.
A disabled list stint is foreseeable, but although some recouping time could probably benefit Kemp, the options for the Dodgers in center field are less than optimal. Poor roster construction this offseason left many holes where the Dodgers needed back up options at positions like first base, center field, and the bench. While Scott Van Slyke has emerged as a powerful bench, outfield, and first base alternative, the Dodgers depth in center field is thin. Yasiel Puig and Alex Castellanos are not center fielders, and if Kemp should land on the D.L. it is doubtful they would be called upon. The Dodgers could play Andre Ethier sparingly in center if needed, but moving Crawford to center would not be wise due to his arm strength. Skip Schumaker will likely see some time in center if Kemp is only down a few days, but he should not be the solution for any sort of long-term timeframe.
Joc Pederson or Tony Gwynn Jr. seem like the only true center field options the Dodgers could reach for. Elian Herrera could also play center, but he is not as strong at the position as TGJ. Gwynn had already filled in for Kemp admirably last season when he was injured with a hammy strain and missed two months, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Dodgers shifted Shawn Tolleson to the 60-day D.L. and added Gwynn to the 40-man roster if needed. Joc Pederson would be my first choice to get the call, and he has been playing center field for the AA-Chattanooga Lookouts this season with success. The 21-year old Palo Alto native is batting .313 with 8 homeruns, 11 doubles, 2 triples, and 15 stolen bases in 192 at-bats. If anything, this could be a perfect opportunity for the Dodgers to showcase the left-handed outfielder who could be part of trade deadline conversations later this season.
The Dodgers will have to go on with or without Kemp regardless. Ted Lilly will go to the mound tonight in Anaheim in
the finale of the Freeway Series. Lilly was crafty as ever in his last start against the Cardinals when he allowed just 2 runs on 2 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. He wasn’t involved in the decision, but it was a solid outing from Lilly after returning from the D.L. due to a rib cage strain. When healthy, Lilly can be very effective. The southpaw is 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA against the Angels in his career.
The Halos will send a lefty to the mound as well as Jason Vargas gets the call. Vargas is 4-0 over his last five starts, and he beat the Royals last time out after allowing 2 runs on 5 hits over 7 1/3 innings. Against the Dodgers, Vargas is 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in his career.
Hanley Ramirez, who has also been recovering from a hamstring strain, will play his first rehab game on Friday in Bakersfield for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Don Mattingly said that Hanley will play in four rehab games, and he could be activated as early as Monday.
The 7:05 p.m. game will air on KCAL. Let us know who you think should fill in for Matt Kemp in center field in the comments section.