Through the first 39 games of the season and 164 plate appearances for Kemp, he has just one home run. That one was an unimpressive slicing drive that barely cleared the right field wall at Citi Field.
"As long as I'm getting my hits and I'm getting on base, I'm not worried about hitting home runs," Kemp said of the power outage. "I never have been. Home runs are just something that happens. You can't force them."
Kemp, who went 0-for-5 in an 8-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday, led the National League with 39 home runs just two seasons ago. But he suffered a serious shoulder injury in the second half of last season and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage in October.
All indications are that injury and the subsequent surgery are at the root of Kemp's lack of power this season. Whether it was the lack of strength training during an off-season spent rehabbing his shoulder or swing changes that he made to play through the pain last season, the Dodgers all point to Kemp's shoulder as the reason for his apparent inability to drive the ball so far this season.
"Surgery like that is just a time thing," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Just because he feels good and doesn't feel any pain, does that mean you're feeling back to full strength."
Dodgers' hitting coach Mark McGwire said Kemp is "very, very close" to erasing those bad swing habits and will hit for power soon. In the meantime, his 14-game hitting streak, which ended Friday, raised his average from .182 to .273.
"I want him to keep having good at-bats, you know what I mean," Mattingly said. "I don't care if he hits five home runs. If he's driving the ball and getting his doubles, he's going to be fine. Five home runs and 100 (RBIs), right? It doesn't matter how you get them.
"I'm not against home runs, don't get me wrong. But it's more important to me to get him back to being that guy who hits .300 and drives the ball to the gaps. That's the guy he's been in the past."Told that Mattingly said he would take a five homer, 100-RBI season from Kemp, the outfielder readily agreed.
"I would too," he said.
NEXT: Dodgers (Chris Capuano, 1-2, 6.60) at Braves (Kris Medlen, 1-5, 3.08)
OF-1B Scott Van Slyke hit two homers and made a diving catch Friday in his first start of the season in right field. Andre Ethier was given the night off against Braves LHP Paul Maholm despite going 2-for-2 with two walks Wednesday against the Brewers. Van Slyke was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque on May 10 and was 2-for-4 with a homer last Sunday against the Marlins while playing 1B.
LHP Chris Capuano, who starts the middle game of the weekend series against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night, is coming off his first victory of the season. He struck out seven and allowed one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Sunday against the Miami Marlins. Capuano is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Braves, 10 of them starts.
LHP Ted Lilly doesn't think he needs another minor league rehab start before returning to the Dodgers' rotation, although manager Don Mattingly thinks otherwise. Lilly, who threw a side session on Friday, said his strained rib cage didn't bother him Wednesday, when he four runs over five innings for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Lilly strained his rib cage in his second start with the Dodgers after coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.
RHP Matt Magill will start the series finale Sunday against the Braves after RHP Josh Beckett went to the disabled list Wednesday because of groin strain. It will be just Magill's fourth major league start. He looked good in his debut on April 27 against the Brewers, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings and striking out seven. But Magill, who last pitched May 10, has allowed eight runs over 6 1/3 innings in his two starts since, his ERA jumping to 6.92.
2B Mark Ellis, who was hitting .342 with 11 RBIs in 20 games when he strained his right quad April 26, made his first minor league rehab appearance Friday, playing three innings for Double-A Chattanooga at home against Tennessee. He batted just once, grounding out.
INF-OF Jerry Hairston, rehabbing his left groin in Arizona, developed discomfort in his left knee. "He's on hold right now," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. Hairston, on the DL since May 7, had a .255 average and five homers in 20 games, including 11 starts. He had played 3B, 1B, LF and RF.
"I left the ball in the middle of the plate and he hit it. I didn't do my job."—LHP Paco Rodriguez, after giving up a grand slam to Justin Upton on Friday.
RHP Josh Beckett (strained left groin) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 14.
2B Mark Ellis (strained right quadriceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 27. He is scheduled to join Double-A Chattanooga for a minor league injury-rehabilitation assignment beginning May 17. Ellis could rejoin the Dodgers during the week of May 20-26.
INF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6. He is tentatively scheduled to go to extended spring training in Arizona the weekend of May 17-19 to test his injury before beginning a rehab assignment.
SS Hanley Ramirez (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list May 4. He's expected to be out until early to mid-June.
LHP Ted Lilly (stiff back) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 30. He received an injection in his right ribcage April 30. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 15.
RHP Stephen Fife (right shoulder bursitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 22.
RHP Shawn Tolleson (lower back strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 13. He had surgery April 25 to treat a herniated disk. He is expected to be sidelined until at least late July.
LHP Scott Elbert (arthroscopic left elbow surgeries in September 2012 and January 2013) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 10.
RHP Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery in April 2013) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 16, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 10. He's out for the season.
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Matt Magill
LHP Chris Capuano
RHP Brandon League (closer)
RHP Kenley Jansen
RHP Ronald Belisario
LHP J.P. Howell
RHP Matt Guerrier
LHP Paco Rodriguez
RHP Javy Guerra
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B Nick Punto
SS Dee Gordon
3B Luis Cruz
INF Juan Uribe
INF/OF Scott Van Slyke
LF Carl Crawford
CF Matt Kemp
RF Andre Ethier
OF/INF Skip Schumaker