Baseball / Sports

Kemp enjoys playing right field in Dodgers' 5-2 victory at Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Kemp bounced into the clubhouse with a smile Monday night.

"You see that?" he said.

With Yasiel Puig out of the lineup because of a bruised left hand, Kemp played right field in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

"It felt natural," Kemp said.

It looked natural, too, as Kemp broke for the ball better than when playing left field or center field this season. And he drove in the Dodgers' first run with a third-inning double to left field.

This was something of a surprise, considering he hadn't started in right field in five years or played there regularly in six. Until Monday, he hadn't taken any pregame fielding there this season.

"It's way easier than left," Kemp said.

Kemp was moved from center field to left nearly two months ago. Advanced metrics rate Kemp as a below-average defender at both positions.

Presumably, this change is temporary. Kemp is expected to be back in left field when Puig returns to the lineup, which could be soon. Puig and shortstop Hanley Ramirez underwent follow-up X-rays Monday that determined there were no fractured bones in their left hands. They were struck by pitches over the weekend in St. Louis.

With Puig sidelined a day earlier, Mattingly said he was reluctant to play Kemp in right field because he hadn't played there in a while.

Evidently, Mattingly changed his mind.

"It's really the combination of guys that I have," he said. "It changes what I do."

Added Mattingly: "Matt, all along, I think has been more reluctant in left than anywhere else. That's where he was most uncomfortable."

However, Mattingly said "It's not the perfect situation. ... We don't really ask him to be perfect. We ask him to do his best, with the understanding that if it's not perfect, it's not necessarily his fault."

Mattingly said he was not certain how he would use Kemp if Puig is sidelined for longer than expected.

"I haven't thought about it too much," Mattingly said. "I haven't felt like it's going to get long. If it would get long, I'm not sure which direction we would go with that."

Kemp was diplomatic when asked before the game about playing right field.

"I'm just happy I'm in the lineup," he said.

But Kemp pointed out that right field was his natural position.

When he was drafted out of high school in 2003, it was as a right fielder. And right field was where Kemp established himself as an everyday major league player. He became a center fielder midway through the 2008 season only because Andruw Jones washed out.

Plus, Mattingly said, "I look at Matt as a great athlete and capable of playing in multiple spots."

But not center field, the position Kemp has said he would like to play on an everyday basis.

"Well, right now, you know, it is what it is right now," Mattingly said. "Let's just leave it at that."

Mattingly sounded irritated.

"I don't want to go into all this stuff," Mattingly said. "It's ridiculous."

With Kemp not considered as an option in center field, Mattingly started Andre Ethier there. Carl Crawford played in left.

"It was cool, man," Kemp said. "It felt good."


KEY MOMENT: The Dodgers blew the game open in the fourth inning with some help from the Pirates defense. With two outs and runners on second and third base, shortstop Justin Turner blasted a ball at third baseman Josh Harrison. The ball went off Harrison's glove and into center field, allowing two runs to score and increasing the Dodgers' lead to 4-0. Turner was credited with a double and scored on a single by Adrian Gonzalez to increase the margin to 5-0.

AT THE PLATE: Gonzalez drove in two runs and reached base five times. He was three for three with two doubles and two walks, including one that was intentional. The Dodgers collected 12 hits and were three for 11 with runners in scoring position. With the Dodgers in their fourth game after the All-Star break, Gonzalez said he thinks the lineup might be starting to find its rhythm. "It could be something to do with it," he said. "Seeing more pitches helps with the timing."

ON THE MOUND: Hyun-Jin Ryu improved to 11-5, as he held the Pirates to two runs and five hits over seven innings. Both runs he gave up were scored in the fourth inning, when he served up consecutive run-scoring singles to Russell Martin and Jordy Mercer.

UP NEXT: Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.26 earned-run average) is expected to be activated from the disabled list to face the Pirates and Vance Worley (2-1, 3.38) at PNC Park on Tuesday at 7 p.m. EDT.

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