Now to finally see if the Dodgers’ grand plan can actually pay off.
The Dodgers activated Matt Kemp off the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game, pretty much giving them the lineup they had planned on using for the first time all season.
“We’ve been saying we’re pretty much full strength,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “This kind of puts us there. Obviously Carl [Crawford] is not back yet, but we kinda inserted Yasiel [Puig] there. We’ll figure that piece out when Carl gets back, but our lineup is pretty much back to full strength.”
Kemp has been out since May 30 with a strained right hamstring. After just three rehab games with triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 2 for 11 with six strikeouts, he pronounced himself ready to go.
“I wouldn't be playing if my hamstring didn't feel good,” Kemp said. “My legs feel good. Shoulder feels good. Everything feels good. It's a good day to play baseball. I'm in the lineup today. I'm ready to play.”
Kemp was batting .251 with just two home runs and 17 RBI in 191 at-bats when he suffered the hamstring injury. He was not playing like the Kemp the Dodgers had signed to a $160-million contract, and no one was more aware of it than Kemp.
“I didn't do too well the first month and a half of the season,” Kemp said. “For me, this is a new season, a new Matt.
“I feel good. My mind is right. I'm ready to play baseball.”
Mattingly, naturally, is counting on Kemp being as healthy as he says.
“Matt feels like there are absolutely no excuses,” Mattingly said. “He’s ready to play, ready to be himself. We don’t need Matt Kemp coming back as a rehab player. We need him coming back as Matt Kemp.”
Mattingly inserted immediately inserted Kemp in center Tuesday, moved Andre Ethier back to right field and gave Puig his first start in left.
“Yasiel was like, `I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me,’ ” Mattingly said. “It’s kind of like the lineup -- first, fourth, whatever. He just wants to play. Yasiel was tremendous with that.”
Kemp had been cleared to return to his normal lifting program for the first time since his off-season shoulder surgery just prior to injuring the hamstring. At least he was able to hit the weight room hard the last three weeks.
And he did his best to declare the shoulder absolutely was no longer an issue.
“You all have to stop asking me about my shoulder,” he said. “The shoulder is good. There’s nothing wrong with my shoulder, I promise you.”
Tuesday marked the first time Kemp has played with shortstop Hanley Ramirez all season.
[Updated at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday: To make room for Kemp on the 25-man roster, prior to the game the Dodgers optioned utilityman Elian Herrera back to triple-A Alburquerque.]
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