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Hard work pays dividends for LA's Kemp

Hard work pays off for Kemp

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HOUSTON -- Matt Kemp's hitting streak may be over, snapped in Wednesday's 6-5 loss to Houston, but what remains is the work ethic that produced at least one hit in the season's first 14 games.

Just like before, Kemp, an ascending five-tool player, is dedicated to doing all the little things that have produced such big results thus far.

And as the Dodgers continue their road trip, moving on to Friday's series opener at Colorado and then to San Francisco, Kemp will make certain to get that bit of extra time in the cage to keep himself in rhythm.

Not a lot. Not overworking things. Just enough time in the cage to provide that everyday reminder to Kemp's body and mind of what needs to be done to remain successful.

"It's real important," Kemp said of getting in the cage. "All of us guys, we go to the cage every day. You don't have to go in there for more than five or 10 minutes -- you just go in there and work on what you need to work on.

"It's about consistency. You hit line drives consistently in the cage, and then you go do your work in [batting practice] and get ready for the game. Yes, it's real important to get in the cage every day and work on some things."

Dodgers manager Joe Torre feels that such dedication is the result of Kemp not only being receptive to the advice from batting coach Don Mattingly, but also being able to watch left fielder Manny Ramirez diligently go about his daily business.

"Manny does a lot of cage work and [hitting off the tee]," Torre said. "There's a purpose for everything other than getting loose. It's just a repetition that serves him well. Matty has always been a little impatient with himself, but right now, I see really a whole different feel for the way he seems to be hitting."

Kemp sees the same thing.

"It's a focus," he said. "It's about being real confident in yourself. You don't want to get too lackadaisical because baseball is a very humbling game. You could be going really well one day, but then go real bad for a month. I just want to stay consistent through the year and help the team win."

Torre, who has seen a few good hitters in his time, thinks Kemp has as much potential as anyone he's seen. But Torre doesn't want to make direct comparisons, if only to avoid putting pressure on the 24-year-old center fielder.

But when Kemp puts a jolt in the ball, Torre can't help but be reminded of other similarly gifted players.

"It's too early, and that's only in fairness to him," Torre said. "But there aren't that many people who can do what he does when he does it right. When he hits a ball in the air, it doesn't necessarily come down.

"I've been around a number of [players like that] -- [Darryl] Strawberry was one who could hit the ball high and you would think it was a fly ball, but it doesn't come back [down]. Alex [Rodriguez] was another. Dale Murphy was another one. Albert [Pujols] does it, too.

"He [Kemp] is gifted, and I guess he's finding out more about his ability."

Michael Murphy is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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