By Lance Pugmire
5:52 PM PDT, August 29, 2013
Matt Kemp stepped on and off an angled wooden device Thursday, stretching the left ankle that has kept him from playing for the Dodgers since July 21.
As he started what’s scheduled to be a three-game rehabilitation assignment to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Kemp said his return to the Dodgers is more about the timing of his swing than the ankle.
“The ankle’s good,” Kemp said before batting second for the Quakes as the team’s designated hitter. “I just need to get some at-bats. That’s why I’m here: Get your timing back.”
Kemp, runner-up to National League MVP Ryan Braun in 2011 despite leading the league in home runs, RBIs and total bases, batted just .263 in 62 games before injuring his ankle in a home-plate collision July 21.
The first-place Dodgers have pulled away from second-place Arizona during his absence, going 28-8 with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig in the outfield.
Kemp has told reporters he expects to return to a starting position with the Dodgers.
“I won’t be here long,” Kemp said in the Quakes’ dugout Thursday after saturating his T-shirt in sweat by running up and down ballpark steps.
“It’s been tough being out, but fun to watch the guys. These last two to three months have been great for the team. And it’s great that I’m coming back.”
Adding a player of Kemp’s caliber to a team that trails the Atlanta Braves by 2 1/2 games for baseball’s best record is an exciting prospect for Kemp and his teammates, he said.
“We’re all eager to watch each other succeed,” Kemp said. “It’s been a fun season, and I’d like to be a part of even more fun deep into September.”
Kemp tested his ankle on basepaths Tuesday, then ran Wednesday without any problems. He said he’s certain it will withstand the rigors of a game.
“When it’s feeling good like this, you know when you can play,” Kemp said.
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