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Not time to move Kemp from leadoff slot

Outfielder is 7-for-20 with two HRs in 5 games at top of order

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Already, the tweets and emails are flowing.

Essentially, it's the same message -- "Now that Matt Kemp is hitting, when will they move him back to the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the batting order so that he can drive in runs?"

Yes, the Padres outfielder is having some success since agreeing to move into the leadoff slot.

In five games, he is 7-for-20 with two doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored. On Sunday, Kemp opened the game by slamming a 395-foot homer on the fourth pitcher offered by Arizona right-hander Chase Anderson.

Since moving into the leadoff spot, Kemp has raised his batting average exactly 10 points to .250. And he has struck out only twice after averaging a strikeout once every 3.8 at-bats while hitting third and fourth.

So is it time to move Kemp back to the No. 3 or No. 4 slot?

I say no.

Kemp doesn't seem to mind what he's doing right now. And he's doing it well. As the saying goes, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

And it doesn't seem to be broken.

"Kemp has given us a real weapon at the top of the order," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said Sunday. "It's helped him. It's helped us. You want your hottest hitter getting the most at-bats."

What has most Murphy most excited about switching Kemp to the leadoff position is how Kemp accepted the assignment -- and what message that sent to the rest of the Padres.

"The leader of the team is in to help any way he can," Murphy said. "When that happens, it is huge. It says he's in. Everyone else sees that."

Kemp talked about leading off Sunday after the loss to the D-backs.

"It doesn't matter where I hit," he said. "You lead off the game only once. After that, you might hit third or fourth in an inning. I feel better. The swing is coming ... I can still get hot."

Kemp says he hasn't adjusted his game as the leadoff hitter. Maybe not. But his game has picked up since he made the move. Coincidence? Or could there be some subconscious adjustment being made that helps both Kemp and the Padres? Small sample size, but his production is up.

Eventually, if Kemp keeps hitting the way he's hitting now, he will move back to the third or fourth spot. But there is no reason to rush.


Justin Upton's six-game hitting streak ended Sunday with an 0-for-4. The left fielder was 8-for-25 (.320) in the streak with a double, a two-run homer and three RBIs. He also has 10 strikeouts in the 25 at-bats and has 13 strikeouts in his last 32 at-bats. Eleven of Upton's 14 homers this season have been hit at Petco Park. That is the highest total by a Padre at Petco Park before the All-Star break since the ballpark opened in 2004. In 38 home games this season, Upton is hitting .319 (45-for-141) with the 11 homers and 29 RBIs.

• First baseman Yonder Alonso also had a six-game hitting streak snapped Sunday with an 0-for-3. He was 9-for-24 (.375) during his streak with two doubles, two RBIs and five runs scored. He also drew two walks for a .423 on-base percentage.

• Catcher Derek Norris hit his 10th and 11th homers of the season Sunday. It was the second multi-homer game of his career. Prior to his first homer Sunday, Norris was in a 5-for-48 drought. Norris is hitting .174 in June (16-for-92) with seven homers, three doubles and six singles - as his batting average has plunged from .283 to .246. But he has 13 RBIs and 16 runs scored in June.

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks cautiously walked off the field on his own power in the seventh inning after slipping on a bat in the Arizona on-deck area while unsuccessfully chasing a foul pop-fly. Earlier in the game, Middlebrooks committed his third fielding error in a span of five games to open the door to Arizona's three-run second inning. The error was his fifth in a span of 26 games.

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