LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Kemp was out of the Dodgers' starting lineup for the fourth straight game Monday, and he's being groomed to play left field because the team isn't confident he can handle the defensive demands of playing center field at the moment.
Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp isn't moving the way he did a couple of years ago, when he was the 2011 NL MVP runner-up.
While Kemp transitions to left, Carl Crawford will handle the position, Andre Ethier will play center field and Yasiel Puig will play right field. Mattingly emphasized that Kemp could still play center in the future.
However, the manager believes Kemp isn't 100 percent physically after undergoing ankle surgery during the offseason, suggesting that the two-time Gold Glove winner lacks his usual burst of speed.
"We still feel like maybe physically he is back because he isn't on the medical report, but you see the steps sometimes, he doesn't really want to stop hard," Mattingly said.
"Maybe that's getting over that little fear of the ankle where it's at. This gives him more time to be able to get to where we feel he's 100 percent, continue to work in center, but also work in left field which we feel is best for the ballclub at this moment."
A clearly frustrated Kemp insisted otherwise.
"I'm healthy, man," he said. "I feel good. I just want to play."
Kemp practiced in left Monday for the first time after being informed of the plan by Mattingly last weekend.
He will have to split time with Crawford in left while trying to regain the team's confidence that he can still play solid defense in center, where Ethier is the starter.
"This pitching is that good that we've got to catch the ball for them," Mattingly said about the team's rotation.
Offensively, Kemp and Crawford are just about even. Kemp is hitting .264 with five home runs and 13 RBI, while Crawford is batting .265 with four homers and 18 RBI.