All-Stars Kemp, Kershaw back for seconds
Dodgers more relaxed after experience of first Midsummer Classic in 2011
KANSAS CITY -- There they were again, sitting at tables right next to each other, representing the Dodgers at All-Star Media Day for the second season in a row.
This might just become a habit for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who are in the primes of their career for one of the most tradition-laden franchises in the game.
"This is our second time together making the All-Star Game," Kemp said. "It's definitely something we enjoy doing. It's exciting, especially for our families. It's good to be able to share the same stage with him as one of my teammates, and someone that I admire as a person and a teammate."
Kemp is the five-tool outfielder just coming off a left hamstring injury that will keep him out of the All-Star Game, but did not prevent him from serving in his role as captain and participant in the State Farm Home Run Derby. He finished second in the National League's Most Valuable Player Award voting last season.
Then there is Kershaw, the lefty ace that most teams would love to build a franchise around. He won the NL Cy Young Award last season, and even if he's not pitching quite at that clip yet this season, NL manager Tony La Russa thought enough of him to give him a berth on the All-Star team.
Not many people can call themselves a two-time All-Star at the age of 24. There figures to be a long string of trips to the Midsummer Classic for Kershaw.
"I sure hope so," Kershaw said. "I'd sure like to come every year for a long time. Who knows when I'll get to come again? I just have to soak it up now and enjoy it."
NL hitters don't enjoy facing Kershaw very much. The American League will probably only have to see him for an inning, or at the most, two, on Tuesday.
"It's the same as pitching in a regular-season game," Kershaw said. "It's fun, you're going to compete and try to win. That's part of the fun of it. Hopefully I get in there and get somebody out."
If Kershaw and Kemp appear to be a little more relaxed at this year's festivities, it's because they are. Experience will do that for you.
"I think last year, it just kind of helped prepare me for the demands on you as far as time schedule and stuff like that," Kershaw said. "With that, it's a lot easier. I don't feel as discombobulated with all that stuff, running around and doing all that stuff. As far as the atmosphere and getting to do the All-Star Game, that never gets old and it's fun to do."
Kemp was clearly enjoying being part of the showcase event. His gold shoes were a hot topic during the morning media availability.
"These shoes are gold -- very gold," Kemp said. "I like them. I like style. I think they're in. I got a lot of compliments on them, and some people have hated on them. The only person I feel like who's opinion really counts is my mom's, and she likes them. I think I'm doing pretty good right now."
The Dodgers, who are hanging on to first place by a thread (a half-game) despite a recent barrage of injuries, can't wait to get Kemp back into the mix.
"He means a lot. He's really good," said Kershaw. "Having him back will definitely be helpful. Having Andre [Ethier] back will be helpful. Getting Mark Ellis back is helpful. Getting Ted Lilly back will be helpful. It's just a domino effect. Getting guys back that you want on your team, it just helps."
And having someone like Kershaw take the ball every fifth day, well, that really helps.
After going 21-5 a year ago, Kershaw comes into the break with a 6-5 record and a 2.91 ERA. His 120 2/3 innings lead the NL.
Of his 16 starts, 12 have been quality starts, including a May 19 shutout of the Cardinals.
Earlier this year, he made his second Opening Day start and later fired a career-high 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
At 23 years old last year, he became the second-youngest Dodger to win the NL Cy Young Award behind Fernando Valenzuela (20, 1981), and the youngest National Leaguer to win it since Dwight Gooden (20, 1985). Kershaw also became the eighth different Dodger to win the Cy Young, with a Dodger pitcher winning the award for the 10th time, both of which are the most in the Majors.
Kershaw has downplayed two injuries -- a tight back muscle in Spring Training in April, and plantar fasciitis in his left foot in June.
Kemp is the first Dodgers position player to be voted onto the starting lineup in back-to-back seasons since Mike Piazza in 1996-97.
Kemp was headed for a repeat of last year's record-breaking season until he was injured. He was named NL Player of the Month for April, when he batted .417 with a franchise-record 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 23 games. At the time of his injury, he led the league in just about every offensive category except stolen bases, and he was hitting .486 against left-handed pitchers.
But he first injured his left hamstring May 4 in Chicago, missed his first start May 6, and finally went on the disabled list May 14 after trying to play through the injury for a week. He was activated May 29, only to blow out in the first inning May 30 scoring from first base on an Ethier double and immediately returned to the DL.
Kemp has been playing in an injury rehab assignment without any issues, and is antsy to get the second half going.
"I'm just going to ease my way back into it and not try to do too much and not try to put too much pressure on myself and not force it," Kemp said. "It was a little frustrating to get injured. Then I re-injured it. It got a little more frustrating. My guys have kept me in good spirits. For me, I can't wait to get back. I'm happy to be here right now. I'm happy that I'm going to be back for the first game of the second half, and it's exciting."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.