Matt Kemp looks cool as he begins his day at Camelback Ranch. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Dodgers Second Start to the Season is Bittersweet


The Dodgers will have placed one franchise player on the disabled list while activating the other by the time they return home to Dodger Stadium on April 4th for their home opener. It’s been one “Opening Series” after the other since the Dodgers notched two wins in Sydney, Australia. The Dodgers will play in their second “Opening Series” against San Diego starting Sunday evening at Petco Park. Then the Dodgers will finally make it home on Friday, April 4th for their home opener.

Clayton Kershaw was placed on the DL on Saturday with back inflammation. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw was placed on the DL on Saturday with back inflammation. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We were once speculating that Clayton Kershaw could have technically started all three “Opening Days,” but now that Kersh is on the disabled list for the first time in his career, Hyun-jin Ryu will take the mound on Sunday in San Diego. Ryu, who earned a win alongside Kershaw in the Australian series, has been solid all throughout Spring and in Sydney. Ryu had a bit of a toenail issue, but it seems to have been resolved by removal of said pesky nail. Ryu looks to be an important piece in the Dodgers plans for 2014, and so far he is showing no signs of a sophomore slump.

While the Dodger ace won’t be eligible to come off the D.L. until April 8th, Matt Kemp reportedly will be activated for the Dodgers’ home opener on Friday at Dodger Stadium. While I’m excited to see Matt Kemp’s redemption story unfold, it will be a bittersweet homecoming for Kemp with Kersh now on the D.L. With the Dodgers shuffling outfielders, second basemen, and starting pitchers this Spring, Matt Kemp will need to prove that he can stay healthy and be a consistent contributor to this team.

Matt Kemp is one of the best players in the game when he is healthy. A laundry list of injures have befallen the once M.V.P. runner up, and fans have become disillusioned with Kemp. I can understand the frustration of fans who are still waiting for Kemp to redeem himself from the chain of injuries which included a career-threatening injury caused by his own base running mistake. Kemp will need to not only show that he is in good physical shape, but he will need to take on a leadership role again on this team which will be without their ace for the first week of the season.

While my expectations are admittedly quite low after two years of waiting and hoping, I am still positive and confident in Matt Kemp’s

talents and abilities. The only question is whether his body will hold up. His surgically repaired shoulder and ankle will be a constant question even if Kemp succeeds this season. The only way for Kemp to silence the pessimists is to execute.

I can see us in July talking about Matt Kemp’s season as if it was two years ago and he was blasting bombs and swiping bags at a league-leading level. Matt Kemp is a exciting player, and I think with so much time elapsed, we have forgotten the stampede of The Bison. We have Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez now, but with Matt Kemp in the equation alongside the Wild Horse and HanRam, we could have a lineup which would frighten any pitcher in the league.

Joc Pederson is knocking on the door, and I want to let him in. Pederson has flashed his defensive skills in center field this Spring along with his sweet swing. I would pick a healthy Matt Kemp over Joc any day, but with Joc in the back of my mind, I feel as if Matt Kemp’s time to shine again is now.

“It’s progressed a lot since we left Australia,” Kemp said as the Dodgers ran through batting practice before their second Freeway Series game with the Angels in Dodger Stadium. “I’m ready to go. When the time comes, if they want to put me in the lineup I’m ready to go.”

I’m ready to go, Matt. Let’s do this.

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