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Matt Kemp on schedule to play in home opener: 'I'm ready to go'

Matt KempLos Angeles DodgersDon MattinglyJosh Beckett

He’s hit -- a lot. He’s run and slid and played in numerous camp games.

There’s really only one thing left for Matt Kemp to do in his recovery from off-season foot and shoulder surgeries -- take the field with the big boys. Kemp is not eligible to come off the disabled list until April 4, the Dodgers’ home opener.

“I’m ready to go,” Kemp said. “When the time comes, if they want to put me in the lineup I’ll be ready.”

Kemp remained at the Dodgers’ Phoenix camp when the team left to play two games in Australia. He continued playing in minor league games and re-joined the Dodgers Friday feeling the long rehab process is behind him.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel really confident. I feel like I can help this team win. It’s going to be fun to get back out here with the guys and back out here playing again. It’s been a while.”

Kemp had one of the great offensive seasons in team history in 2011, but has struggled with injuries since. He had hamstring issues the next season and then injured his shoulder, requiring major off-season surgery.

Last season he got off to a slow start and then had hamstring trouble, an irritated AC joint, and then just as he was starting to play well again, injured his ankle and was lost for the postseason. That required major off-season surgery, plus cleanup of the shoulder.

“There’s been a lot of rehabbing going on the last year and a half,” he said. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing. But hopefully all that’s behind us. It’s just time to play some baseball.

“I’m not missing anything now. I’m ready to go.”

Kemp said his biggest hurdle was running, the biggest mental hurdle sliding.

“I’ve been down there playing in some minor league games, and I slid a couple of times,” he said. “I think that was one of my biggest obstacles, trying to slide and see how that would feel. But I conquered that and now we’re good.”

Kemp will continue to work out with the team until he’s activated and is not expected to take a rehab trip. Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp would next hit in a game situation Monday.

“His next real schedule to hit off pitching will be Monday in San Diego,” Mattingly said. “Josh [Beckett] will throw some innings there in that off-day.”

If Kemp is activated next Friday, it will finally give Mattingly that much discussed four-star-caliber-outfielders dilemma, one that would probably be most welcome at this point.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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