Though he is no longer an iron man with a consecutive games streak under his belt, there are positive signs Matt Kemp will be able to rebound after two injury plagued campaigns.
That may sound strange especially considering Kemp likely won't be ready for opening day. He still isn't able to run except on a specialized anti-gravity treadmill to reduce stress on his surgically repaired left ankle. But missing games is nothing new for Kemp, who has missed 145 of the Dodgers' last 290 games.
This directly followed a stretch of 399 consecutive games, at the time the longest active streak in baseball.
What's different about this Kemp return is that he is hitting again. He has the trademark extension in his follow through, thanks to a healed left shoulder after a second straight offseason with shoulder surgery. This offseason, unlike last year, Kemp was able to lift weights, and his upper body strength is back.
The power was gone in 2013 for Kemp, limited to just six home runs in 73 games and a .395 slugging percentage that lowered his career mark from .501 to .493.
"I couldn't really get through the ball. I was cutting my swing off, couldn't get extension," Kemp said. "I can hit now. Y'all don't even ask me about my shoulder."
Now it's just a matter of waiting for his ankle to heal. And after five trips to the disabled list in two seasons, Kemp has gained patience.
"Me rushing back hasn't helped any in the past two years, so I need to take a different approach. Rushing back I'm better, but when I come back other injuries happen from rushing back," Kemp said. "I don't want to be the player who comes back, feels good, gets hurt again, comes back. I want to be 100%."
We don't know exactly when Kemp will return, but there is hope that once he is back he can be productive once again.
Kemp needs 34 games to become the 32nd Dodger to appear in at least 1,000 games with the club.
Kemp will make $21 million in 2014, the third season of an eight-year deal he signed after the 2011 season. Kemp has six years and $128 million remaining on the contract.
2011: Primed for a rebound
2012: The real MVP
2013: Shouldering the load
|2014 projections - Age 29 season|
I am optimistic that Kemp can be productive upon his return, and that eventually he will play nearly every day. My guess for 2014 for Kemp is .287/.351/.494 with 26 home runs and 136 starts in the outfield. What's your guess?