MIAMI – When Matt Kemp left Friday’s game in frigid Pittsburgh with a sore hamstring, the Braves and the veteran left fielder thought he’d be back in the lineup by Tuesday’s series opener in Miami.
Instead, he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday as the Braves’ early woes continued to mount.
The soreness lingered through the weekend and Monday’s team day off, and Kemp tested the right leg early Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park before he and team trainers agreed it best not to push his recovery.
“It’s just a thing where we don’t need to take that chance right now,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, adding that the shortened minimum on the disabled list — it was 15 days before this season — made the decision easier.
Kemp’s DL stint is retroactive to Saturday and he’ll be eligible to return April 19, the middle game in a three-game home series against the Nationals. Rookie infielder Johan Camargo was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to take the roster spot and struck out in his first major league plate appearance Tuesday in an 8-4 loss that dropped the Braves to 1-6.
“I was expecting to play (against the Marlins),” said Kemp, 32, who was one of the few Braves bright spots before his injury, batting .500 (8-for-16) and six extra-base hits, including two home runs. “But I mean, we went through some tests. Everything is fine, we just need to be safe. I’ve already taken, like, two or three days off and we have an off day coming up. So it’s, like, five extra days.
“I’ve had a hamstring problem before and sometimes when you think it’s gone, it’s not. So, five extra days can’t kill me. I want to be out there, but I also want to play the rest of the season and not have any (lingering) hamstring problems.”
When he was with the Dodgers, Kemp missed 51 games (two DL stints) for a strained left hamstring in 2012 and also had a DL stint for a strained right hamstring in 2013.
Snitker said he realized over the weekend, when Kemp’s hamstring was still sore, that he probably wouldn’t be ready to play in the two-game series but still hoped to pinch-hit him against the Marlins and have him ready for Friday’s home opener against Kemp’s former team, the Padres. That is, until Kemp showed up Tuesday and tested the leg with some running and other drills.
“He was good. I think he’s in a good spot where probably after the DL thing is over he’ll be ready to go,” Snitker said. “But pushing it. … Matt’s been through that before and I told him, I’m going to trust your feel on it. We talked it over and I think it’s smart and the best thing to do was to wait. … We decided, talking to him and how he felt, that it’s probably better to make sure this thing doesn’t linger.”
Kemp led the majors in extra-base hits before his injuries, with four doubles and two home runs — half of the team’s homer total before Tuesday.
“It’s definitely tough to lose him but hopefully we can get him back shortly,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who arrived at Marlins Park at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, just as Kemp was about to test his hamstring. “I kind of figured he wasn’t going to play today after how he told me he felt on Sunday, but I was really hoping a day off would bring miracles, and the better weather. … But it’s just one of those things where he didn’t want to force the issue, and neither do we. We don’t need him missing till June. I’d rather him miss six or seven games than 40 games.
“Ultimately it was probably the best decision for him and for us going forward.”
The Braves and No. 3 hitter Freeman will have to make do without Kemp in the cleanup spot for at least another week. Nick Markakis moved up from the fifth spot to bat cleanup Tuesday and veteran utility man Emilio Bonifacio was in the lineup in left field and batting eighth.
“We don’t need (Kemp) to go out there and (push it) and then we lose him for two months,” Freeman said. “One of the best things that happened in this new (Collective Bargaining Agreement) was going to 10 days (for a minimum DL stint). It makes it easier to put someone on the DL because you’re not losing them for so long. Hopefully it is only a 10-day DL stint and he can get back here shortly because he’s a big part of our lineup.”
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