Matt Kemp returns to center field

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

We might need a flowchart to keep track of the logic, but the Dodgers center field enigma made for several position changes on Saturday night.

LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in 48 games, Matt Kemp played center field on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, returning to his old position under rather unusual circumstances.

The game started with Kemp in left field, his 42nd start at the position in the last 43 games. But after Yasiel Puig was called out on strikes to end the third inning, he remained at home plate arguing with umpire David Rackley, then getting ejected.

In the top of the fourth inning, Carl Crawford was brought in to replace Puig, but Crawford went to left field, the only position he has played since 2009. Kemp moved from left to center field, his first time at the position since May 22 in New York. Andre Ethier, who started in center field, his 34th start there in 48 games since Kemp last played the position, moved to right field.

Manager Don Mattingly explained after the game.

"Carl we talked about getting some work out in center but hasn't been out there in forever, so I wanted him to be comfortable in left," Mattingly said. "Matt hasn't been in right at all, and I knew Dre could play all three easily, and that Matt would be comfortable in center."

If there is one thing Mattingly has shown, it's that he will almost never put a player in a position he isn't familiar with, not without advance notice or practice. We saw it earlier with Kemp's transition from center to left field, a position he hadn't played in eight years. Kemp didn't start for five straight games back in May.

October 4, 2009 -Last time the Dodgers used 3 center fielders in a nine-inning game was in Game 162 against Colorado, one day after clinching the NL West. Kemp, Juan Pierre and Jason Repko played center that day.

Given that Kemp hadn't played right field since 2009, on some level it makes sense that Mattingly didn't want his first time back at the position be in a game situation. It doesn't make the center field situation any less complicated or any less glaring a weakness, however.

To make matters even weirder, when Kenley Jansen entered the game in the ninth inning, he came in on a double switch in Crawford's spot, moving Kemp back to left field and putting pinch hitter Scott Van Slyke in center field for the final inning.

Van Slyke has started 14 games at the position this season, a fact that likely would have made someone a lot of money with a preseason wager.

"With Van Slyke, we feel like he's the best defender in center field," Mattingly said. "You try to put everyone in the best position."

Up next

The Dodgers will enter the All-Star break no worse than a virtual tie for first place, and enter Sunday with the best record in the National League. Hyun-jin Ryu starts the series finale for the Dodgers, facing NL All-Star selection Tyson Ross for San Diego.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join True Blue LA

You must be a member of True Blue LA to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at True Blue LA. You should read them.

Join True Blue LA

You must be a member of True Blue LA to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at True Blue LA. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker