The Dodgers lost their best player on Monday night as Matt Kemp was placed on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. The news was pretty much expected since before the game, when manager Don Mattingly, Kemp, and the training staff had a lengthy meeting with Dr. Neal ElAttrache about Kemp's MRI results, which confirmed a left hamstring strain.
"It's a mild strain, but the doctor said if you do it again, it can go from a grade one to a grade two, and then you're talking four weeks," Mattingly said. "Now he has a chance to get healthy, and make sure he doesn't have any long-term effects from this thing."
Mattingly said the Dodgers knew before the game that Kemp would be placed on the disabled list, and that he wasn't available to pinch hit tonight, which snapped Kemp's streak of 399 consecutive games played, which was the longest active streak in MLB.
"We found out Matt wasn't going to give us the whole truth regarding his hamstring, so we were in a sense protecting him from himself," Mattingly said.
Kemp said he was disappointed to go on the disabled list, but that he understood the decision.
"I just need to take some time, and hopefully I can get back to running fast doing the same thing I've been doing this year," Kemp said. "When I get back hopefully we'll be 10 games up."
The Dodgers are 24-11, owners of the best record in baseball, and have a six-game lead over San Francisco in the National League West.
To take Kemp's roster spot, the Dodgers recalled Jerry Sands, and this is where things get interesting.
Sands was already passed over by Scott Van Slyke in the "right-handed batting corner" department, as Van Slyke got recalled last week. Fellow Dodger newcomer Elian Herrera can play center field if needed, but for all intents and purposes Tony Gwynn Jr. is the only real center fielder on the roster.
Gwynn will be the primary center fielder with Kemp on the shelf, which Mattingly doesn't think will be more than 15 days. But Mattingly also wants to make sure Gwynn doesn't get overused, and said he would use Andre Ethier in center field for "a couple games" with Kemp out.
"Donnie asked me if I could play center, and I said, 'You must not remember a couple of years ago in the All-Star Game, when I was the starting center fielder'," said Ethier, who has never played a regular season game in center but started the 2010 All-Star Game as the center fielder for the National League.
That would allow the Dodgers another chance to get both Van Slyke and Sands into the lineup against a left-handed pitcher, for instance. The three current primary starting outfielders for the Dodgers — Ethier, Gwynn, and Bobby Abreu — all bat left-handed.
"I can do it. You just have to take charge, read the ball, track it down and catch it," Ethier said. "I'm not saying it's easy but it's definitely something I'm willing to undertake and if it gives the best chance to win because we're getting the right guys in the lineup, then let's give it a shot and make it work."
Chad Billingsley takes the mound on Tuesday night as the Dodgers look for their second six-game winning streak of the season. Left-hander Wade Miley takes the mound for the Diamondbacks, which might mean playing time for the right-handed Van Slyke and Sands.