GLENDALE—Few, if any, major-league players had a more tumultuous 2010 season than Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp.
General manager Ned Colletti publicly criticized his indifferent fielding early in the year. Bench coach Bob Schaffer and third base coach Larry Bowa, two guys who put the "old" in old school, both confronted Kemp about his lackadaisical effort at other points in the season. Then there was also the case of Kemp becoming a favorite of the paparazzi because of his relationship with pop singer Rihanna.
Kemp was worth just 2.4 WARP last season, a far cry from his 6.9 mark of 2009. As one Dodgers' official remarked midway through the year: "Matt is more interested in being famous than being a good ballplayer."
The Dodgers hope that Kemp can get his career back on track this season, in part, because of changes to the coaching staff. Manager Joe Torre retired at the end of last season and successor Don Mattingly decided not to retain Schaffer and Bowa. The Dodgers also hired first base coach Davey Lopes away from the Phillies. Lopes and Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent, are close friends.
Mattingly is encouraged by what he has seen of the 26-year-old Kemp this spring both on and off the field.
"He's been great," Mattingly said. "He's still young and I think he's going to use last year as a learning year. It's going to wind up being a positive because it showed him how serious he has to take the game. Everyone knows how much talent he has and there is no doubt in my mind that if he stays as focused as he's been so far this spring that he's going to have a great year."