The Los Angeles Dodgers have just suffered their first series loss since June, but Don Mattingly isn’t going to bring Matt Kemp back until he’s absolutely ready.
Kemp sprained his ankle in late July and has yet to come back from that. The good news is that he doesn’t have pain or swelling in the ankle.
The skipper said that Kemp will start a rehab assignment next week and could join up with the team in September, but he’s waiting until Kemp is 100 percent. He added:
"What I don't want to do is just throw him back in and put him in the middle of this thing when everything is going pretty good and he's not sharp. I really want him to be sharp when he plays. That's the biggest thing. I want him to be ready to play. Hopefully, he gets a couple minor league games. It sounds like he had a good day today. He ran really well today, and he'll start running the bases in the next couple of days, and once you do that, guys are ready to play. Hopefully, we'll get him in some games, and if we can't do that, we'll set up some [simulation] games and get him a number of at-bats that way. I want to get him back into the mix, but I want him to be sharp when he comes. I want to give him the best chance to have success. I don't want him to be just in spring training mode. You want him to be able to play at full speed because you want him to not be afraid to slide and not be afraid to run into the gap and stop and make a turn, steal a base. You want him to know that he can do that… We still need him back. We don't throw guys out there that aren't 100 percent. If they can't play 100 percent, we're not going to put guys out there, especially off a rehab [assignment]. If you're coming back off the DL, you have to be 100 percent. We wouldn't send him out there if his ankle was 90 percent. We know what Matt is. We know what Matt's capable of, and I want to get him back in the mix."
What Mattingly will do with his outfield once Kemp returns is still in question. Since the rise of Yasiel Puig, either Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier or Kemp has been injured and he hasn’t had to pick between the four. Mattingly said:
"It depends what kind of pitching we're facing and matchups and things like that. I'll do the same thing I've always done when I'm setting up a lineup, and I'll be cognizant of giving a guy a day [off] here and a day there. We had a talk about this. Somebody's not going to be happy. I told them that I don't expect them all to be happy. If you're not in the lineup and you're a guy who wants to play every day, you're not going to be happy, but you ask them to understand the situation. I don't know what to tell you. If you're getting two or three hits a day, you're usually playing, so it's a little bit of a competition. But more than anything, it'll be about matchups. There will be some tough decisions to make, and I'm going to have to deal with it."
Mattingly also talked about the giant contracts these guys have and if that will affect who plays and who doesn’t, but he said no. All that matters is winning, and whoever is playing best and will help the team win against various lineups will get the start.