Braves’ Kemp impressing, before, during and after team workouts

Braves left fielder Matt Kemp has been the first in the batting cage and the last to leave the field most days this spring, manager Brian Snitker said. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
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Braves left fielder Matt Kemp has been the first in the batting cage and the last to leave the field most days this spring, manager Brian Snitker said. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After Friday’s scheduled workout had ended and Braves position players had left the back fields at ESPN Wide World of Sports and repaired to the clubhouse, Matt Kemp kept working.

First, he went to his left-field position at Champion Stadium, where a coach hit him fly balls and Kemp threw to second base, again and again. The throws were strong, and most were directly on target. He did this for about 15 minutes, while manager Brian Snitker did a post-workout interview with Braves writers in the dugout.

As he watched Kemp, Snitker talked about how impressed he’s been by the 12th-year veteran, who reported to spring training in noticeably improved condition, slimmer than last season when he hit .280 with 12 homers and an .855 OPS in 56 games for the Braves after a trade from San Diego at the end of July.

“He’s the first one in the (batting) cage every morning, he’s the last one to leave,” Snitker said. “He’s working his tail off. It’s been really kind of cool to watch.”

A half-hour later, after Snitker had finished his interview and reporters went up to the press box to write, Kemp was still on the field, now in right field doing conditioning work. With long bungee-like cords strapped around Kemp’s chest and connected to a Braves conditioning coach who was about positioned about 20 feet behind him, did a series of bursts and high-step dashes, pulling along the guy behind him providing resistence.

“I talked to (Kemp) the other day, to make sure (everything was good), and he’s great, man,” Snitker said. “He said, ‘I’ll let you know if I need anything.’ Like I say, he’s early in the weight room, first one in the cage. The other day he stayed after and hit off the curveball machine. He’s really getting after it.”

Kemp, 32, is signed through 2019 and will make $21.5 million annually in that period to complete an eight-year, $160 million contract. In other words, he’s getting paid, regardless. Yet, appears as driven now as he’s been in some time, after finally getting past leg and other injuries that plagued him for years since his heyday with the Dodgers, when Kemp was a two-time All-Star, MVP runner-up in 2011, and won two Gold Gloves.

“This dude was a big-time center fielder at one point,” Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. “He looks physically similar to what he did then.”

From Spring Training

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Stone Mountain native Brandon Phillips talks about joining the Braves and the first time he put on a Braves uniform.