LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers placed center fielder Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday for the second time this month because of a left hamstring strain.
And this time, the training staff is going to make sure there are no recurrences when he returns to the lineup.
Kemp went 1 for 4 with a double in two games since being reinstated from the disabled list on Tuesday. He left Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee after scoring all the way from first base on a first-inning double by Andre Ethier.
“He has a little bit of swelling in the same area, as well as a new strain in a higher part of that hamstring,” said Sue Falsone, who is in her first year as the club’s head athletic trainer after spending the previous five seasons as the team’s physical therapist.
“They’re both Grade-1s, which means that there’s not a lot of muscle fiber tear. It’s the lowest grade of a muscle strain, so that’s good news. But having multiple strains in one muscle, obviously it’s going to be a little bit longer from a rehab standpoint. So we’re just going to take it day-by-day.”
Falsone said the best-case scenario for Kemp is four weeks before he can play again. He spent two weeks on the disabled list the first time the hamstring bothered him and when he got back to the dugout after his latest mishap, he broke a bat over his knee in frustration.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” Kemp said after Wednesday’s game. “I was happy to be back. It felt great, and I thought I was 100 percent. But now I’m going to be sitting out a while. It feels worse than the first time. This is my first time ever really having any hamstring problems, so I don’t know how to really treat it. I know they’re very tricky and they can always come back. So I definitely have to take it slow and make sure it’s healed.”
Kemp was leading the league with 12 home runs when he aggravated the hamstring running out a grounder May 13 against Colorado — ending his consecutive games streak at 399. He played in two rehab games with Triple-A Albuquerque over the weekend, going 5 for 7 with two homers and five RBIs.
“We have benchmarks and milestones in place, and he achieved all of them or he wouldn’t have been out there playing,” Falsone said. “But I don’t think you can say that the first strain caused the second strain. So we’ll put him through all the same rigors that we did before — all the baserunning, all the deceleration stuff — but we’re just going to take longer to do it.”
Los Angeles entered Thursday with a major league-best 32-18 record and a 5½-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West despite their first three-game losing streak. And with Kemp’s bat missing from the third spot in the order, the Dodgers will be hard-pressed to fill the void on a long-term basis.
“It’s frustrating for everybody,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said. “We all feel bad for Matt. I know nobody feels worse than he does. He wants to play — bad. It’s never easy for the team to deal with when your superstar’s out. But at the same time, the games keep coming. So you’ve got to keep playing and keep grinding.”
“This is our first tough stretch of the year, but we’ll come out of it and we’ll be better for it,” said. “We don’t know how long Matt’s going to be out, but we’ve got to play like we did the first time he was out, and the guys who stepped up have got to keep doing that.”
Kemp, who finished runner-up to Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun in last year’s NL MVP voting, is batting .355 with 28 RBIs in 36 games. Last season, he hit .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs — falling one homer shy of becoming only the fifth player in big league history with at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season.
“We thought Matt was ready to roll,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We wouldn’t have thrown him out there if we didn’t think he was a hundred percent — or if he didn’t think he was a hundred percent. This should be a challenging time for us. It’s the time you find out what kind of club you are and what kind of character you have. We were pretty resilient for a couple of weeks when Matt was out (9-5), and guys stepped up and did their thing. And we’re going to have to do it again.”
The Dodgers promoted second baseman-outfielder Alex Castellanos from Triple-A Albuquerque. Castellanos, who will be making his major league debut, was hitting .379 with 10 doubles, four triples, five homers and 14 RBI in 22 games with Albuquerque.