PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Matt Kemp stood up from his locker, navy blue hoodie covering his head and began signing the nursery rhyme, ”Rain, Rain, Go Away.”
Aside from Saturday’s gray skies and precipitation in the forecast all weekend, San Diego’s new right fielder is loving his new life that is taking him a couple of hours farther south in Southern California with the Padres.
”This is a different pace,” Kemp said. ”I’ll go from LA to San Diego, two beautiful cities. San Diego’s just a little bit more laid back and chill. I’m enjoying my time here. New changes, new faces.”
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Kemp has made one thing clear already: The Padres have baseball’s best outfield.
”I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t believe it,” Kemp said with a smile. ”We have a good enough outfield to compete with any outfield, just like (Pittsburgh’s) Andrew McCutchen, just like those guys, of course they’re supposed to believe in their guys. On paper, they are one of the best outfields in baseball. We have a lot to prove. It’s a new year.”
Kemp will be part of an outfield trio that also includes fellow newcomers Justin Upton in left and Wil Myers the expected starter in center. Yet Cameron Maybin still hopes to win the job in center field, and Will Venable also is in the mix.
All three projected starters came in trades. All three within 48 hours: Kemp in a deal with the reigning NL West champion Dodgers, 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Myers from the Rays and Upton swapped by Atlanta.
”Everybody gets their work in. Everybody gets here early,” Kemp said. ”There’s a lot of guys here committed to winning. We’re ready to go.”
The Padres’ expectations are all about the postseason in the early days of spring training, beginning with building the foundation now to get them there come late September.
Even manager Bud Black has a sense of humor about the flurry of offseason movement that overhauled his roster.
”No trades, no transactions,” Black quipped before heading to the practice field.
Black already appreciates Kemp’s belief in this team.
”I like that. He’s confident,” Black said. ”I like the fact that Matt looks around and sees our group. I think I’ve heard him say, `You look at the group of outfielders … it’s a good group. It’s a lot of nice baseball players. So for him to say that, it’s pretty good, right? It’s real.”
San Diego went 77-85 last season for third place in the NL West behind Los Angeles and the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Now, the Padres aren’t just talking a big game – the plan to back up this star-studded roster with results. The Padres haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006.
”Every team, every year you show up always has high expectations and sometimes you don’t know for sure if a championship is really realistic, but I think it’s safe to say looking at the talent, looking at it on paper, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be competing for the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship over here,” new infielder Clint Barmes said.
And, they just added James Shields on a $75 million, four-year contract this past week.
”The names have changed,” Black said. ”If the expectation level has risen, we like it. We like that. Personally I like it. The coaches like it. The players like it. So as a group, there’s nothing better than to think that you have a solid team, and we feel as though we do, so that’s a good thing.”
NOTES: Black has no concerns about Shields making a speedy adjustment. ”Here’s a guy who’s 33 years old who has service time. He knows his body, he knows where it needs to be Feb. 28,” Black said. ”He’s in tune with what he has to do personally. It’s been noted, he has a great feel for a team, he’s engaging. He’s got a personality. He’s a competitor. It’s early and I don’t expect this to change, he’s saying the right things from a team concept and leadership.” … Jason Lane, the former outfielder who came up as a left-handed pitcher last season, will start the Cactus League opener Wednesday against the Mariners and is slated for two innings.