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Dodgers' Matt Kemp plays center field for first time this year

Dodgers' Matt Kemp plays center field for first time this year
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp prepares to take batting practice during a spring training workout last month at Camelback Ranch. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

PHOENIX --

Matt Kemp

was back in center field Wednesday.

Even though it was in a minor league intrasquad game on a practice field at the Dodgers’ spring-training facility, the development marked a major breakthrough for Kemp, who is recovering from an ankle operation.

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This was Kemp’s first game in center field this year. In his two previous intrasquad games, he was limited to hitting.

“I feel a little weird still being out there, but I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m excited to be back on the field, just playing. That’s the process. We’re taking our time.”

Kemp was in center field for two innings.

“I’m still trying to get my legs under me,” he said. “I just wanted to feel good. The legs feel a little heavy and tired at times, but that comes with getting back into shape. You can lift as many weights as you want, but nothing prepares for the game speed out there on the baseball field.”

He said he feels better at the plate than he does on the field.

“I actually feel really good at the plate,” he said. “I’m not really looking for results. I just go for feeling and I feel pretty good. Sometimes, I’m a little quick. Hitting-wise I’m where I need to be. Now it’s just playing defense, running bases and getting the feel for being out on defense and the bases again.”

Kemp is expected to continue playing in minor league games while the Dodgers are in Australia next week for their season-opening series.

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