Kemp gets stronger as Puig impresses
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After going 0-for-3 in his second Spring Training game Sunday, Matt Kemp was lifted for a pinch-hitter, who looked like the next Matt Kemp.
Yasiel Puig, the 22-year-old Cuban exile, blistered a bullet three-run home run that added to the budding lore of the $42 million signing. It also added to the questions facing manager Don Mattingly about whether Puig can make the Opening Day roster with only 95 professional plate appearances.
"Don't even get started," Mattingly said. "It's just fun watching him play with that energy. Anything is possible, but I'm not going to go into hypotheticals. We'll see what happens."
Kemp is coming off shoulder surgery, but he and Mattingly said the shoulder is fine and he'll have enough spring at-bats to get his timing down. Carl Crawford reported improvement in his elbow after taking new medication, but his readiness for Opening Day is a question. Jerry Hairston and Skip Schumaker are around in case either Kemp or Crawford isn't ready.
But now there is Puig, who will become a real storyline if he continues to hit once the curveballs start breaking.
Puig admitted to a little nervousness when he saw how many good players there were early in camp, but that .421 spring batting average has him starting to believe that he belongs. He said he doesn't even know what it means that Kemp, Crawford and Andre Ethier are each signed through at least 2017.
Meanwhile, Kemp said he expects better at-bats when he returns to outfield play this week, uncomfortable with the standing around of a designated hitter. Physically, he said he's fine.
"The only thing I worry about is swinging and missing, and I did that a couple times and it didn't hurt," he said. "The swing is still long. I need to shorten it up, and I'll be good. It's only five at-bats. I'm definitely not worried about where I am. I'll be happy to get back on the field.
"If I think about the shoulder, I won't be successful. I have to trust that what I did in the offseason worked and just go out and play."