Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers started filing into Camelback Ranch on Tuesday but the most popular player was neither a pitcher or a catcher.
It was Matt Kemp.
The outfielder acquired from the Atlanta Braves in December was not expected to make it to spring training, as the reports were that the front office was attempting to find a new home for Kemp. No new home has been found and Kemp was one of the many position players that reported a few days early.
He was surrounded by reporters to start his day and Kemp was in a joyful mood as he took on questions. He even was happy when someone brought up his ‘baseball town’ comments that he made back in 2016.
Down a reported 40 pounds from last season, Kemp expects to compete for a spot in the Dodgers outfield and he’s ready to get back to the basic goal of having fun (via Andy McCullough of the LA Times):
“I’ve got a whole new outlook on life. I’m having fun. I’m going to have fun and ride this thing until the wheels fall off. Literally.”
The 33-year-old is well aware of the situation he’s in and knows that he may not last the spring with the team but until then, Kemp is expecting to help the reigning NL champs (via Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports):
“I’ve still got a lot of baseball in me. I can help this team win. … We all got something to prove every year. It’s a fresh start. Why not do it back where I started?
Dave Roberts knows that Kemp comes with stats that say he’s one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball but he believes that can change (via Eric Stephen of True Blue LA):
Matt Kemp rated -17 runs in defensive runs saved in 2017, -13 in total zone rating, -9 in UZR. Dave Roberts expects that to improve with help from Dodgers positioning and being in better shape.
"The natural ability to read a ball off the bat, Matt has that," Roberts said.
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) February 13, 2018
Even former and once again current teammate Clayton Kershaw had kind words for the 2011 MVP runner-up (via McCullough):
“I’ve seen him at his best. I know how good he can be. I know he still has the ability to hit a baseball really well. I hope he gets that chance to prove it here.”
All in all, it was a solid first day for Kemp. While nobody knows what the future holds, he knows what the ultimate goal is if he stays:
“This is where I grew up. I always wanted to win a World Series here, and win here. It was fun watching these guys last year play and get to the World Series. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of it?”