Notes: Kemp debuts for Dodgers
Outfielder makes the leap from Double-A to the Major Leagues
WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers purchased the contract of outfielder Matt Kemp from Double-A Jacksonville and put him right into the lineup for Sunday's game with Washington, batting sixth and playing center field.
Pitcher Lance Carter was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Kemp. Cesar Izturis was moved to the 60-day disabled list while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
Kemp has been one of the Dodgers' top prospects and was off to a great start this spring in Jacksonville. He was hitting .327 with seven homers and 34 RBIs, including 15 doubles, 38 runs and 11 steals. In addition, Kemp had an impressive .528 slugging percentage.
Kemp didn't believe it when he first got the word of his promotion, just before Jacksonville's game on Saturday afternoon in Huntsville, Ala., because there's generally a lot of joking around about players getting called up to the big leagues. The fact that he was being called up from the Double-A level made him especially skeptical.
"I thought they were [joking]," Kemp said, with a smile. "But it was true this time. I'm still in shock."
General manager Ned Colletti said that, with outfielders Kenny Lofton and J.D. Drew battling some nagging injuries, the Dodgers brass felt it was better to add a fifth outfielder. Joel Guzman and Delwyn Young, both playing for Triple-A Las Vegas, were the other prospects considered.
"It's a weighty decision," Colletti said, "but you need more than four outfielders, and you need more than two healthy outfielders. I thought that it was time we made a move."
Colletti said the Dodgers like Kemp because of his ability to play all three outfield positions, and the team is looking at him to fill different roles, depending upon the need.
"Giving Lofton and J.D. a day off isn't the worst thing," Colletti said. "It's not even June."
Kemp struck out on four pitches against Washington starter Ramon Ortiz in his first Major League at-bat in the second inning.
He then made a great throw in the bottom of the third, nearly getting Marlon Anderson at the plate on Brian Schneider's sacrifice fly. Kemp's throw was a bit to the third-base side of the plate, and Anderson barely got in to score.
"[Kemp's] got the ability to play all over the outfield," Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
Carter struggled the entire season, posting an 0-1 record with an 8.49 ERA in 10 relief appearances. He allowed 11 runs and 17 hits in 11 2/3 innings. His last appearance came in Friday's 10-4 loss to Washington, when the Nationals touched Carter for two runs on two hits in one inning.
No official order: Little maintains there's no official order to his end-of-game pitchers, even though Danys Baez appeared in the eighth, and Takashi Saito entered in the ninth the last three times both pitched.
Baez was expected to be the closer until Eric Gagne's return, which the team is hoping will come on June 1, but when he struggled in that role, Little decided to switch things around. Saito got the save in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Nationals, but Little said there have no assigned roles.
"The players will dictate the roles they take," Little said. "We have some flexibility there."
Baez is 2-2 with nine saves and a 2.59 ERA in 22 appearances this season. He's 9-for-14 in save opportunities after making the All-Star Game last year with Tampa Bay.
The 36-year Saito is a rookie who pitched for 13 years in Japan and has a 3-2 record with two saves and a 2.52 ERA in 23 games. He leads the Dodgers with 23 appearances, and opposing batters have just a .184 average against him, compared to a .297 average against Baez.
Little has said he'd like to avoid using Gagne on back-to-back days when the right-hander returns, and these two pitchers could help the manager do that.
Injury update: Little said he's hoping to have both Drew and Jeff Kent back for Monday's series opener in Atlanta.
Drew sat out of Saturday and Sunday's games with soreness in his right shoulder. He underwent an operation on that shoulder in the offseason. Kent hurt his left hand on a swing in his first at-bat on Saturday and came out.
A young team: The Dodgers had four rookies in their lineup on Sunday, an unusual occurrance for a contending team.
Second baseman Willy Aybar was batting fifth, followed by Kemp, left fielder Andre Ethier (seventh) and catcher Russell Martin in the eighth slot. Aybar (.350), Ethier (.317) and Martin (.305) all have played well this season.
Coming up: Brad Penny (5-1, 2.31) takes the mound in Monday afternoon's series opener in Atlanta. Penny has enjoyed his best start since 2001 when he went 7-1 with Florida. He'll go against John Thompson (2-3, 3.04).
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.