Kemp wastes no time in helping Dodgers

Kemp wastes no time in helping Dodgers

When your manager compares your abilities to Joe DiMaggio's, you must be doing something right.

Dodgers' outfielder Matt Kemp has played in the Major Leagues all of 11 games, but his manager, Grady Little, is impressed enough to bring up the Hall of Fame Yankees centerfielder in the same sentence.

"I'm comfortable with that kid anywhere on the lineup card," Little said. "In the future, I see this kid being as good a No. 3 hitter as you'll ever see.

"I wasn't alive to see him play, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's a lot like Joe DiMaggio when he was young," Little added. "He's got all the tools. You see a lot of good players who have three tools. This kid has all five. He's come up so quickly, he reminds me of Chipper Jones."

Kemp, a Midwest City, Okla., native, made the jump from Double-A Jacksonville to the Dodgers on May 28th when the club was in Washington. Kemp spent three seasons plus 48 games this yearin the Minor Leagues. Kemp's needing only 321 Minor League games might have surprised some, but he sees himself as right on time.

"My goal, going into last season, was to be here this year," Kemp said. "Seriously, it was real talk. After my High-A season, I told my family, my friends like Junior Spivey, everybody, that was my goal. I came to Spring Training expecting to make this team."

Kemp, who stands 6-foot-2, did not have a good spring. He went 4-for-39 (.103) in 15 games but included in those four hits were a double, a triple, a home run, and five RBI. He started the season in Double-A.

When Kemp joined the Dodgers, they were in the midst of a six-game road trip. Kemp struck out three times in his first game, but finished out the road swing by hitting over .500 in a three-game series in Atlanta.

"The first game was pretty rough," Kemp said. "I was trying to do too much, swinging at some bad pitches. I was just too excited, a little over-anxious."

Once he got to Los Angeles to make his Dodger Stadium debut, that over-anxiety seemed to sail out of the ballpark like the baseballs Kemp gets his bat on.

In his first home game, Kemp's three-run home run helped lead to the early exit of Phillies starter Gavin Floyd, who allowed seven runs in four innings.

As much excitement as Kemp provided with his first big-league home run, he had more to come. He hit one home run in each of the next two games, then went two games before hitting his fourth.

That one came against Mets ace Pedro Martinez and gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.

Kemp hasn't been the only rookie to help the Dodgers this season. Willy Aybar, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier have also made contributions for a team that is 33-27 and in second place in the NL West.

With all the talented prospects in Spring Training, Little had singled out Kemp as his favorite. When asked last week if that had changed, Little said, "that part of my list hasn't varied much."

Martin said he, like Little, could see in Spring Traning that Kemp would be in the Major Leagues soon. Now that Kemp is in Los Angeles, Martin sees that Kemp is right at home.

"He just looks like he's comfortable, like he belongs here," Martin said. "It is a big jump you know, skipping Triple-A. Triple-A guys have a little more experience."

"Some guys need it and some guys don't," he added. Obviously, he doesn't need it really."

Kemp grew up in Oklahoma, and spent his Minor League stops in Georgia and Florida, but right now, his attention is on the West Coast.

"I'm just more relaxed," Kemp said. "I feel even more relaxed when I'm here in L.A., at Dodger Stadium, because all the fans are cheering for you, not against you," Kemp said.

"L.A. is a good city, I like it so far."

For Kemp, it's been so far, so good.

Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.