Sports Dodgers

Dodgers' Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp are improving physically

PHOENIX -- As Zack Greinke pitched in his first exhibition game in nearly two weeks, Matt Kemp made a breakthrough of his own Wednesday in a minor league intrasquad game on a nearby practice field.

For the first time this year, Kemp played center field.

Kemp is 41/2 months removed from surgery on one of the major weight-bearing bones in his left ankle. He was limited to hitting in the two previous minor league games in which he played.

"I feel a little weird being out there, but I'm having a lot of fun," he said. "I'm still trying to get my legs under me. 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."

Kemp will stay in Arizona when the Dodgers depart for their season-opening two games in Australia. Greinke will also remain at the Dodgers' spring-training complex.

While there is no timetable for Kemp's return, Greinke said he is aiming to pitch in the Dodgers' first domestic series of the regular season. That series, in San Diego, starts March 30.

"Still a ways to go," said Greinke, who had been sidelined because of a strained right calf.

Greinke gave up three runs and six hits in two innings in the Dodgers' 9-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He threw 39 pitches.

Greinke's only other start of the exhibition season was Feb. 27. That appearance lasted four pitches.

Greinke said he was surprised by how long it has taken his calf to heal.

"I thought I was fine that day," he said. "I thought it was going to be 100% in a day or two. It has gotten better, but at about 10% of the pace I was expecting."

Greinke said he was still reluctant to run at full speed and admitted he was relieved there weren't plays on which he had to cover first base.

"I don't know if I could run full speed. I might be able to, but it's not worth the risk," he said.

Greinke was disappointed by how he pitched, particularly in the second inning when he gave up three runs and four hits. Andy Marte led off the inning with a home run.

Greinke said he was throwing pitches high in the zone, something he tends to do when he lacks arm strength.

"I'm disappointed with how the location was in the second inning, but the calf was better the second inning than the first," he said.

Bereavement leave

Manager Don Mattingly wasn't in camp Wednesday. He was in his home state of Indiana because of a death in his family. Mattingly is expected back Friday.

The Dodgers depart for Australia on Sunday and are still in the process of finalizing their roster for the trip.

In Mattingly's absence, bench coach Tim Wallach will manage the Dodgers.

New problem

Josh Beckett might not make his scheduled start Friday because of a sprained thumb on his right hand.

"I come back from thoracic outlet syndrome and this is what I'm dealing with," said Beckett, referring to the nerve problem that required him to remove a rib last year.

Beckett said his thumb was caught in a set of doors leading into the clubhouse about 10 days ago. In his most recent start, on Saturday, Beckett gave up three home runs.

Beckett threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but said he still had trouble gripping the ball on off-speed pitches.

He said he hopes to be ready for the start of the domestic portion of the regular season. If Beckett starts the season on the disabled list, he would be eligible to be activated April 4.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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