When Kemp went to Arizona to rehab his strained right hamstring earlier this month, he texted Pentland to rehab his swing. After discussing it with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and current hitting coach Mark McGwire, Pentland worked with Kemp for eight days at the club's Camelback Ranch-Glendale complex in Arizona and joined him in Albuquerque for Kemp's rehab assignment.
Pentland's role is not easy to define, not even for Pentland. Mattingly said he is something similar to a special adviser, but Pentland said he wasn't sure what other tasks he'll have besides helping Kemp and he won't travel with the club. It could get awkward, with McGwire and assistant hitting coach John Valentin already responsible for the offense. Pentland followed Mattingly as hitting coach and was replaced by Dave Hansen, who has since been replaced by McGwire, the club's 11th hitting coach in the last 14 years.
"He got the blame for us not hitting," Mattingly said of Pentland. "How many coaches have they had here? You don't get rid of the players, you get rid of the coach. Kind of like the manager, you know? I'm glad to see we're willing to use his resources."
Pentland, who was a Triple-A hitting coach for Seattle last year but had been out of baseball this year, said he has no hard feelings returning to the same management team that fired him.
"I know how the game is," he said. "I don't know what happened or why it happened, but it happened. It's just part of the game. It bothered me a little while, but you can't hold grudges in this game."
Pentland said he didn't "invent the wheel" with Kemp, but he noticed something mental and something physical when they reunited.
"Huge frustration more than anything else," he said. "And he was dropping his hands. He's always done that somewhat, but to me, more than it needed to be. He's still a little rusty. He needs to play games, recognize pitches and he'll do fine. Will he hit a lot of home runs? I can't answer that. I told him it will be a little while, but it will come back."
Kemp's MVP-runner-up season, when he hit .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs, came that same season Pentland was dismissed.
"I can't really explain it, but the way he says things, it just connects with me," said Kemp. "I'm not saying Mac and John don't, but Pent's been with me awhile. He's seen me good, bad, every way. Mark and them notice the same things. We're all on the same page. But Pent's been around me a long time and knows my swing."
Pentland said he was "flattered" when Kemp reached out to him.
"He's actually a very quiet person, very complicated, which is why I really like him," said Pentland. "There's a lot to Matt Kemp, a lot inside. He's always intrigued me. He has very high standards and he's not easy to work with. He has a lot of pride."