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Can Matt Kemp get the message? Joe Torre keeps him on bench in Dodgers opener against Giants

June 28, 2010 |  7:04 pm
The lineup for the Dodgers’ showdown with the Giants was posted Monday, once again lacking the name Matt Kemp.

One day after sitting against the Yankees in the finale of that high-profile series, Kemp was back on the bench against Barry Zito in what is actually a more significant series. Division games count like two games.

And still no Kemp -- and Manager Joe Torre isn't promising he’ll be in the lineup Tuesday either.

It’s not just that Kemp is struggling at the plate (.196 in June), but on the field and on the bases.

Reed Johnson started in his place Sunday and had a pair of doubles, making it easier for Torre to justify sitting Kemp again Monday.

"Kemp has good numbers against Zito, but Reed had a good game [Sunday] night so I just decided to go with the same lineup that scored some runs,’’ Torre said.

Kemp has such a seemingly casual attitude, he can be hard to read. Or if you try, it can be an unflattering read.

He doesn’t exactly emanate competitive fire. His energy seems focused on being cool, both in the clubhouse and too often on the field. He comes off so relaxed, his focus and intensity come into question.

And his manager is the laid-back Torre. Still, Torre clearly was irate when Kemp was picked off second base in the ninth inning Wednesday against the Angels. Though not nearly as irate as if, say,  Tommy Lasorda were his manager.

It would have been interesting to see how the fiery Lasorda handled the immensely talented Kemp. Maybe he gets the most out of him; maybe he crushes him.

Torre has been patient to the extreme, but benching him two consecutive days is his subtle signal of unhappiness. As is his not promising Kemp will be back in the lineup Tuesday.

"We'll see," Torre said. "I'm going to take it a day at a time. Reed has given us a little energy and  we need that energy today."

They need that energy every day. They would prefer to get it from Kemp.

Certainly, he will be back in the lineup soon. There’s just no guarantee he’ll have received the message.

-- Steve Dilbeck