It was weird, okay?
Seeing Matt Kemp in a Colorado Rockies hoodie takes some getting used to because as Rockies fans, we have seen what Kemp is capable of — generally in service of the opposing club. But in a media availability on Wednesday, Kemp explained why he’s with the Rockies now, what he thinks he brings, and why he’s believes the Rockies are for real.
Previously in Matt Kemp’s baseball career . . .
After stints with the Dodgers, Padres, and Braves, Kemp spent 2019 mostly sidelined with a fractured rib and under contract with the Reds where he played in only 20 games, hitting .200 before being released.
He then signed a minor league contract with the Mets, playing eight games at Triple-A Syracuse, but never making it to the Mets.
Kemp does not see 2019 as representative of his abilities given that he was recovering from an injury during that time.
“I got released when I had a fractured rib, so I didn’t really get a chance,” he said. “It was only like 40-something at-bats, and everybody has struggled a time or two in 40-something at-bats.”
He described 2019 as “rough.”
“In 2018, I was an All-Star,” Kemp said. “Last year, I got hurt.”
At the winter meetings, Kemp spoke with Jeff Bridich but decided to sign with the Marlins because he felt he would see more playing time in Miami, given the quality of Colorado’s hitters. However, after attending spring training with the Marlins, Kemp was not added to their Summer Camp roster.
Bridich said the Rockies were lookin to sign Kemp whether or not Ian Desmond opted out of playing the 2020 campaign. But when he did, the path to a roster spot became clearer for Kemp.
“We’re well aware of the damage (Kemp has) done against us,” Bridich said.
Truest words ever.
The right-handed Kemp is expected to DH for the Rockies with occasional stints in right field. It’s also worth nothing that Kemp played with Bud Black for a season in San Diego.
“We’ve always had a really good relationship,” Kemp said.
A fan of Coors Field
In Colorado, we have witnessed (generally with horror) Matt Kemp’s skill. In 178 career games against the Rockies, he has slashed .314/.365/.611 with 46 home runs and 154 RBI. At Coors Field, he’s hit .327 with a 1.005 OPS and 21 home runs in 333 at-bats. And let’s not forget Kemp’s cycle with the Padres in August 2015. (Incidentally, it’s his only cycle.) When in Denver, he has hit 23 doubles, 5 triples, and 21 home runs, tying Sammy Sosa for the second-most-opponent home runs at Coors.
Kemp has long enjoyed playing in Denver.
“If I was struggling at any time and I knew we were coming to Colorado, this was a place where, I was like, ‘Man, I could really get locked back in here,’” Kemp said. “Everybody has that one or two or three stadiums they enjoy hitting in, and this is one of the ballparks that I enjoy.”
“I see the ball really good here,” he added. “I like the background, the batter’s eye with the trees. It’s just one of those ballparks that I can get locked in at.”
“Now I can put on this jersey and play with some of my favorite players I’ve been playing against,” he said.
In the off season, he worked out with Nolan Arenado, calling him “one of my favorite right-handed hitters in the game.” (The admiration is mutual: Arenado described Kemp as “Mike Trout before Mike Trout.”)
Kemp is also bullish on the Rockies’ chances in 2020: “They have all the pieces here to compete with any team in baseball on the offensive side and defensive side. There’s a lot of weapons over here that can do some damage, and they all complement each other. Just getting that whole thing working together and moving as one is going make this team even greater and they’re motivated to do that.”
Age is just a number
Given that Kemp is 35 and approaching the end of his career, there are questions as to how much he has left. Kemp isn’t having it.
He’s confident he still has a lot to give — and something to prove.
“I still got a lot left in the tank,” Kemp said.
Moreover, Kemp said he believes he can mentor other players in the same way he was mentored as a young player.
When asked about his age, he laughed, “I was just trying to figure out why people think 35 is old. When I was first coming up, 35-year-olds were in the prime of their careers. You just don’t lose bat speed, just from one year to the next. You notice it. It gradually happens. I still think I can play baseball at a high level.”
For Kemp, there’s an odd familiarity with his new team given that he’s known the Rockies as an opponent for years and has spent time studying their swings.
“I’m 35, and I’m still learning about the game, and I’m getting advice from all these guys, so it’s like a team thing,” he said.
“It’s going to be fun to be here and be part of this lineup.”
What do you think? Was signing Matt Kemp a good move?
This poll is closed
Yes. He’s going to rake at Coors
No. His best days are behind him.
Who cares? He played with the Dodgers.