Torre Pleased With First Look at Kemp

Joe Torre finally got to see some of his young players perfrom during an intrasquad game on Sunday, and although it only lasted five-innings, it was enough to impress the new manager with outfielder Matt Kemp's power.

  In the second inning, the right fielder drove a pitch from non-roster right-hander Jason Johnson to the wall in straightaway center and Kemp, who has the remarkable combination of power and speed, legged out a leadoff triple. Kemp later scored on sacrifice fly by Xavier Paul, zipping across the plate instead of sliding. He beat a strong throw from left fielder Andre Ethier.

"If Kemp has that ability to hit both right-handers and left-handers, that is going to make him tougher to pitch to," Torre said. "He can fight off inside pitches, and he has some speed. If he goes after it, he is going to be a little intimidating to opposing teams."

Torre has suggested he would go with a regular outfield alignment of Kemp in right and Ethier in left, which would force speedy veteran Juan Pierre and his $8 million salary to the bench. But their are many who feel that Pierre will play because the Dodgers need his speed in the lineup.

Club officials like the idea of competition between Ethier and Kemp on the theory that each one will push the other into becoming a better player.

"I'm just trying to do the same thing I did last year, which is play good baseball and leave the decisions up to them," Kemp said. "I can only control what I do. If I take care of business, everything else will take care of itself."

Converted Basketball Star Kemp he didn't know if he wanted to play baseball during his first year in rookie ball after signing with the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. He felt he was really a basketball player and thought he had somehow made the wrong decision when he

Then in 2007 Kemp hit .342, the fourth-highest batting average in Los Angeles history although he only played inn 98 games and had but 292 times at bat. "I didn't know if I made the right decision [signing to play baseball], but I stuck with it and it's something I really grew to love and I'll never regret," he said.

He turned 23 in September and in his fifth professional season hammered the ball to consistently he was the main object of trade talks throughout the off-season.

But the club did not give up their top power source.

The reason? Kemp hit .390 against lefthanded pitching. .333 with runners in scoring position, .333 in Dodger Stadium [and nine of his 10 home runs], .333 on the road, .400 in day games and .427 in Dodger victories.

He started the season with a bang, hitting .429 in March and April before suffering a slightly separated shoulder when he crashed into the right field scoreboard chasing a fly ball.

Returning from the disabled list and 39 games in Las Vegas where he hit .339, he .336 in May and June, slipped a bit in July (.255), picked up to .311 (August) and then finished with a roar, posting a .382 average in September.

He talked about his short career in the interview:

About life in Los Angeles: "You have to stay focused and not get away from what it is you need to do to get where you need to be. Being in the big leagues there's a lot of distractions. The night life in LA is crazy. Don't get too comfortable because people are out to get you, especially if they see you doing good things. They want to ruin that so you can be on the same level as them.

About being involved in trade rumors: "The trade stuff was a little crazier this year. You hear a lot of teams going after me. There's no other place I'd rather be than LA. I don't want to leave there. I'd be disappointed if I got traded. It's hard to have that hanging over your head because you think about it all the time. You can get that call, a random number and that could be it. I don't know who calls you, I've never been traded. But I'm always looking at my phone when it rings and sometimes I'm kind of nervous."

About the steroid flap: "I think he [Barry Bonds] did what he did. You know, it's hard. Nobody knows if he did steroids. They haven't proved it. He's one of the best players ever to play the game. You still have to put the bat on the ball. The things that he did, nobody knows but even if he did you still have to play every day.

Schmidt Impatient
Jason Schmidt is ready to take the next step but the Dodgers are being very cautious about the big righthander. And while the Dodgers aren't saying much about Schmidt being healthy enough to join the starting rotation when the regular season begins, that just might be the case.

Schmidt hasn't had a significant setback in his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery last June, and has yet to throw live batting practice, working in side sessions and using all of his pitches which appear game-ready.

"The fact he started throwing in November was certainly a good sign," Torre said. "I told Jason it was reasonable to believe he could be ready for the start of the season ... but with someone who has had the surgery he had, there is really no reason to talk about April in February. As soon as I start talking about that, then every time he gets the ball, he will start doing things he shouldn't do or putting more into it."

Second Intrasquad Game Today
The second intrasquad game of the spring will be played today at Holman Stadium. Pitchers scheduled to take the mound include Hong-Chih Kuo, Jon Meloan, Mario Alvarez, and Ramon Troncoso for Team Koufax, and Chan Ho Park, Justin Orenduff, James McDonald, and Rick Asadoorian for Team Drysdale.   

Derek Lowe and Eric Stults will get their work in during a simulated game on Wednesday. The Grapefruit League opener, a Thursday matinee against the Atlanta Braves at Holman Stadium, will feature Chad Billingsley and Jason Johnson.  Then on Friday, February 29, Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to make his spring debut at Disney World against the Braves in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN.  

Pitcher Cory Wade left camp and returned to his Utah home to be with his girlfriend, who is expecting a child.

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