KEMP MAY HAVE 'FINALLY' DONE IT! Read the bold comments by Grady Little:
The Dodgers led in this game briefly when rookie Willy Aybar slugged a two-run homer in the top of the second inning off Mike Thompson. It was Aybar's third home run as the replacement for the injured Bill Mueller, who is out indefinitely because his knee is not responding following surgery. Aybar is hitting .302.
Sometimes, like with Aybar, you back into playing opportunity. Sometimes, you make it undeniable.
That's what Kemp is doing, even though his opportunities have been limited because manager Grady Little has been alternating him in left field with Andre Ethier, who is hitting .299.
But Kemp has seven home runs, all in June, prompting the obvious question: How can Little keep him out of the lineup?
"That will be difficult," said Little, conceding that Kemp apparently has won an everyday job. "It will be very difficult for a while."
Called up from Double-A 2 1/2 weeks ago, the 21-year-old Kemp has thrust himself into Rookie of the Year consideration. He's hitting .378 with as many home runs as Nomar Garciaparra and one more than Jeff Kent.
"The way the field is playing, I didn't know if it was going out," he said of the blast, which is tied for fifth-longest in PETCO Park history. "Like I've been saying, I'm seeing the ball real good and getting good pitches to hit and taking advantage of it."
He leads the club with an .867 slugging percentage and a .420 on-base percentage. And he's missed 50 of the team's 65 games.
"I don't know you can expect this much from a normal human being," said Little. "He's a special player."
This was Kemp's first pinch-hitting appearance in the Major Leagues and probably his last for a while. He said he couldn't remember the last time he did it in the Minor Leagues.
"You sit and watch the game until they call on you," he said. "You just go in and try to get something started."
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