Kemp still free to steal

Updated: June 20, 2010, 8:25 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

BOSTON -- The Los Angeles Dodgers don't plan to take away center fielder Matt Kemp's "green light" to steal anytime he chooses, despite the fact Kemp was caught for the 10th time in 20 attempts in the third inning of Saturday's one-run loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Kemp was thrown out by Victor Martinez, the Red Sox catcher who has now cut down just 14.1 percent (nine of 64) of the runners who have attempted to steal against him.

"[Kemp] is just going to have to get a feel," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He is just going to have to learn from it."

Kemp is allowed to run unless he is given a "red light," which usually only happens in certain situations where Torre doesn't want a steal attempt regardless of who the runner is.

Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa said Kemp's stolen-base percentage is "not good," and that Kemp's problem is he hasn't learned yet how to read an opposing pitcher.

"You can't just rely on speed," Bowa said. "There is an art to stealing bases. You almost never steal them on the catcher. You steal bases on the pitcher. You have to watch video and get an idea of a pitcher's tendencies. A lot of times, he has run on pitchers who were using a slide step. I don't care who you are, whether you're [Carl] Crawford or Juan Pierre, you're going to get thrown out if you run on a pitcher who is using a slide step.

"It's a matter of recognizing the slide step. Maybe you take a step or two, you see the slide step, and you stop yourself."

In his first two full seasons in the majors, Kemp posted outstanding steal percentages of 76.1 (35 for 46) in 2008 and 80.9 percent (34 for 42) last year. For all the power he possesses at the plate, Kemp's speed and ability to steal are key elements to his game, which is clearly the reason Torre refuses to put on any reins. But Bowa said that because Kemp has became such a threat on the bases, opposing pitchers have started paying more attention to him, and that makes it incumbent upon Kemp to adjust in turn.

"You're not going to outrun the ball at this level," Bowa said. "If you steal a lot of bases up here, all of a sudden the red [flag] goes up that this guy can steal, and they're watching for it. Just like Manny [Ramirez] or [Andre] Ethier, where the red [flag] goes up that these guys can hit the ball out of the ballpark so you better not let them beat you."

Kemp also appears to take shorter leads off first than many players.

"He could probably get a bigger lead, but that is a comfort thing," Bowa said. "If you don't think you can get back [on a pickoff attempt] with a big lead, then it doesn't do you any good to do that."

No timetable for Fucal's return

Torre said he wasn't sure when shortstop Rafael Furcal might rejoin the team but that he hopes it will be around the middle of this week. Furcal's father died early Sunday morning of injuries sustained three weeks ago when he was kicked in the chest by a horse he was attempting to shoe on the family farm in the Dominican Republic.

More on the Dodgers

For more news, notes and analysis of the Dodgers, check out Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts blog.

Furcal has been on the bereavement list since Thursday, when it became clear his dad probably wouldn't recover. Baseball limits such assignments to seven games, meaning that if Furcal isn't back in time for Friday night's game with the New York Yankees, the Dodgers will have to play with a 24-man roster.

Looking for the fifth

Torre finalized his pitching plans for the week as far as the pitchers he has in house, but he still hasn't identified a fifth starter other than to say it will be either Claudio Vargas, who has made one start for Triple-A Albuquerque since the Dodgers signed him to a minor league contract, or Charlie Haeger, who pitched six shutout innings for Albuquerque on Sunday at Iowa, technically on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

Rookie John Ely will pitch on normal rest Wedesday against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, with either Vargas or Haeger slotted in for Thursday night. Both Vicente Padilla, who made his first start Saturday after a stint of almost two months on the disabled list, and Hiroki Kuroda, who was slated to start Sunday night's game, will be given an extra day before their next starts Friday and Saturday, respectively, against the New York Yankees.

Draftess ink deals

The Dodgers signed several of their draft picks this weekend, most notably third-rounder Leon Landry, a center fielder out of Louisiana State University, and fourth-rounder James Baldwin III, a center fielder out of Pinecrest High School in North Carolina and the son of former Dodgers pitcher James Baldwin.

Terms of the agreements were not announced, but a source with knowledge of the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Landry received a signing bonus of $284,000 and Baldwin got a bonus of $180,000.

The Dodgers still haven't signed first-rounder Zachary Lee, a right-hander from McKinney High School in Texas, who has committed to play quarterback for LSU this fall and will be a difficult player to sign. The club also hasn't announced the signing of its second-rounder, right-hander Ralston Cash out of Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Ga., but Cash told the Gainesville Times last week that he had agreed to terms on a bonus of more than $500,000 and that he expected to finalize the agreement by the end of last week.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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