Matt Kemp starts home opener in place of benched Yasiel Puig
LOS ANGELES — A disgruntled Matt Kemp was not in the Dodgers’ original opening day lineup Friday morning, but thanks to a unforeseen twist — teammate Yasiel Puig’s tardiness — Kemp was in the starting lineup at game time.
Team officials said Puig was unaware what time he was supposed to report for the 1 p.m. game at Dodger Stadium against the San Francisco Giants and didn’t arrive until his Dodgers teammates were already stretching on the field before batting practice.
Manager Don Mattingly, who earlier in the day said Kemp would probably not make his first start until Saturday, scratched Puig and inserted Kemp.
Kemp was activated from the disabled list and undoubtedly expected to make his first start of the season in his comeback from surgery on his left ankle last October. But Mattingly opted to use left-handed-hitting Andre Ethier to face Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, a right-hander.
— Jerry Hairston, Jr. (@TheRealJHair) April 4, 2014
"I don’t think he was real happy about it, but that’s OK," Mattingly said. "We’ve talked about that."
Mattingly indicated Kemp would probably start against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner on Saturday.
Asked about his decision, Mattingly said, "It was a matter of wanting to get Matt back in the mix but not wanting to throw him straight in the fire."
Kemp did not speak with reporters before the game, but he appeared upset as he took batting practice. Teammate Juan Uribe hugged Kemp near the batting cage and gave him what appeared to be a pep talk.
— Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) March 29, 2014
Puig also did not speak with the media, but a team official said he would be available after the game.
Mattingly insisted he didn’t believe Kemp would be a negative influence in the clubhouse if he was not an everyday starter. But that’s clearly one issue he’ll have to consider going forward.
"This is a one-day thing," Mattingly said. "This is not an everyday thing. I think our clubhouse is pretty solid. I’m going to do the best I can with this situation.
"I don’t think it’s going to be a negative situation in the clubhouse. We’re going to do the best we can with it."
To make room for Kemp on the 25-man roster, the Dodgers sent outfielder Mike Baxter to Triple-A Albuquerque.