Kemp takes demotion in stride


Mike Easler played four seasons in the minor leagues before cracking the majors.

Once he made it, he still was up and down in each of the next six seasons with three different organizations.

"My heart was broken many times," the 51s' hitting coach said, recalling his travails as an aspiring major leaguer.

Easler doesn't expect the same arduous journey for 51s phenom Matt Kemp.

The 22-year-old right fielder went to bed Thursday night thinking he might be headed back to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a few days.

He started the year with the big club and was hitting .429 on April 9 when he injured his right shoulder while crashing into the wall trying to make a catch in the Dodgers' home opener.

Kemp was surprised Friday when he got to Cashman Field and learned the Dodgers had ended his rehabilitation assignment but optioned him to the 51s.

That occurred a day after he hit a home run to left field and a triple off the wall in right in his first 51s rehab start in a week.

"It's frustrating," Kemp said Friday before Las Vegas' 6-4 loss to the Tacoma Rainiers. "I'm not mad that I'm here. Everybody wants to be in the big leagues."

Kemp's frustration didn't show on the field. In his first at-bat, he hit a hard grounder to deep shortstop and beat the throw for a single. He stole second and advanced to third when the catcher's errant throw trickled to the outfield grass.

The right-handed hitter struck out the next two times but followed with a two-run homer to right-center in the seventh.

In the top of the third, Kemp showed his defensive prowess and speed, running to his left to make a lunging catch, and ended the inning by running to his right to make a diving catch.

"Matthew can be a Hall of Famer," said Easler, a North Las Vegas resident for three years. "If he keeps his work ethic up, he'll be one of those special players."

Easler said Kemp excels at the five key baseball tools: hitting for power and average, running, throwing and fielding. He compared the 6-foot-4-inch Oklahoma native to former stars Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield.

Easler, who spent parts of 14 years in the majors with six teams, said he empathizes with Kemp's disappointment of a prolonged stay in the minors.

"The next time he's up there I believe he'll stay. He's going to be there for a long time," Easler said. "They just don't want to rush him."

 

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