Don Mattingly on Matt Kemp: “He’s taken it to another level. A guy that wants to win in the worst way.”

May 2, 2012 – 8:30 am by Steven Cuce

What a month it has been for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Who said this team was living in the shadow of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the off-season? Don Mattingly sure didn’t buy into the Angels hype.

Matt Kemp has been a rapid tear to start the season here in 2012. He ended the month of April atop the National League in all three triple crown categories. Kemp is hitting .417 with 12 home runs and 25 RBI’s. As of Tuesday night the 16-7 start by the Dodgers has the ball club first in the NL West and the best overall record in the National League. Mattingly praises his center fielder for a great start to the 2012 campaign.

Don Mattingly joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Mason & Ireland to discuss Matt Kemp’s hot month of April, Matt Kemp leading the Los Angeles Dodgers, Magic Johnson’s new ownership group bringing energy to the Dodgers ball club and Javy Guerra being the Dodgers closer for this season.

Even at your hottest in your career were you ever as hot as Matt Kemp was in the month of April?

“I definitely couldn’t do the things that Matt could do. I could get hot now and then. I think drove in 30 something [runs] one month. I had a month or two in there. I had a month to get there though.”

In 1987 you tied the record for hitting home runs in eight consecutive major league games. Was that you at your hottest as you look back on it now?

“As far as home runs? I told Matt this. He had nine and he’s sitting at nine. I said ‘Matt what is taking you so long? I hit ten in eight days?’ For home runs it was for me. I really wasn’t to be honest with you…I had a couple of years where I hit some homers, but I was never like Matt. I was really more of the kind of guy that got ahead  and the power came along with it. Matt’s just a completely different player than I was. He does so many things defensively. He runs it down in center. He’s got a great arm. He can steal bags. He hits for average and for power. This guy…he is just the total package. To be honest with you even more than that right now what is going on? He’s always been that way. If you read his comments last night after they come and tell him some of the stuff he has been doing. He’s like I don’t want to hear about stats. I don’t want to hear about historical stuff. I want to win games. I talked to him about when he was the player of the month for the first month of April and I said ‘Matty Congratulations. That is pretty cool.’ He goes: ‘Man I want the player of the year. I don’t want no player of the month awards.’ That is what I think has changed him. He’s taken it to another level. He’s leading our ball club and a guy that wants to win in the worst way and guys just follow along when you get a guy like that.”

How do you feel about the ownership change with Magic Johnson? Has that change filtered down to the ball club?

“I think in a sense the energy has been real good. It’s been a positive since the announcement of Magic and his group. You could feel a difference with the fans instantly. There has been so much negativity for the last few years. It just gets kind of old for the guys who are playing cause people aren’t showing up and it doesn’t have anything to do with if you are winning or not. I think the energy has been great with the new group and hearing the things these guys are talking about wanting to do. It fits right in with what we want to do. We came to win. These guys come in and they work hard and at the end of the day they want to be fighting for a championship and it sounds like the group we have coming in are all about that.”

How do you view your bullpen now. Who is the closer? Will it be dictated by matchups still?

“It’s pretty much been Javy Guerra all year and we’ve said if Javy’s down that night it is going to be Kenley Jansen. I’m sticking with Javy and really from that standpoint it puts us in a real predicament if all of a sudden I am going to change direction and you talked about that we have the best record in the National League at this point. If all of a sudden I make a change after 20 games just because he’s had a couple of bad outings then it’s like where do I go if Kenley has a couple of bad games? Then you kind of go back to a guy where you said hey it’s not your job anymore and if that doesn’t work out then we are down another guy, so we kind of made plans throughout the course of the year and we are going to stick with them. If it would continue in a negative way for Javy then we gotta make changes, but at this point we are going to stick with our guns for now.”

Listen to Don Mattingly on ESPN Radio Los Angeles here

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