Padres hoping a hot Kemp is around the corner

The new office complex looming over Petco Park needs a name change. Or if you got any other ideas to flip a struggling Padres slugger, please forward them to Padres manager Bud Black.

Beyond the left-field fence stands the glistening Sempra Energy building. Any chance we call it Kempra Energy and see if that helps?

But Matt Kemp is the real issue and he will start hitting at some point, right?

Among the reasons the Padres are as close to the National League West cellar as the NL West penthouse is Kemp’s scuffling. Brought in as the centerpiece of an offseason like no other, Kemp isn’t denting many baseballs.

We get Upton Funk and is there a better in-game video than when Justin Upton channels Bruno Mars’ dance moves? But it’s the Kemp Funk which has the Padres out-of-step.

San Diego’s May Gray lifted but it’s still a cloudy picture when eyeing Kemp. His body language mimics his batting average as it’s clear his frustration is at a boiling point.

He got heaved from Monday’s game for arguing balls and strikes and that’s not a bad thing. Often that serves like a radiator cap being loosen on an engine running hot. Once the pressure is gone, the production follows.

But Kemp was back being Kemp — the Padres’ version — on Tuesday night. He was hitless in four at-bats against the Mets and struck out three times, mostly on off-speed offerings.

The Mets are nicknamed “Amazin” but what Kemp is going through is just as shocking. He entered Wednesday’s game hitting .242 with one homer.

Black tried to aid Kemp by juggling the lineup. He’s been dropped from No. 3 to No. 4 as Black looks to jar Kemp from his slumber.

What Kemp doesn’t want is a break. Black has offered him a respite, but Kemp declines.

“Do you need a day off,” Black asked Kemp.

“No, don’t give me a day off,” Kemp said. “I grind through my stuff.”

But that grind is producing a pile of sawdust in the batter’s box. Kemp is squeezing the bat so hard as he tries to hit five-run homers.

“The expectations of being the guy has gotten to him a little bit,” Black said. “Which is a good thing because he has the want-to. But it’s a new team, the trade, it’s all adding up. He is really trying, really trying and he is putting a lot of pressure on himself and it creates a little different mind-set. He is in a tough spot, there.”

The Padres are in a pickle if Kemp doesn’t break loose. But Black is convinced soon everything will be kosher with Kemp.

“In some ways, I don’t want to sit him because he could get hot,” Black said. “Heck he might be hot right now and we don’t even know it.”

Maybe Kemp exhales and rebounds against the Mets and on the upcoming road trip.

“He doesn’t have to carry the team on his shoulders,” Black said. “We got to get him to relax.”

San Diego, the ultimate place to chill. But it’s also where Kemp needs to heat up.

+ Contact Jay Paris by email or follow him at @japris_sports.



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