Matt Kemp rejoined the Dodgers on Friday for the first time since their season-opening trip to Australia. And after taking batting practice with the team for one of the few times this spring, he pronounced himself ready to play when his stint on the disabled list ends next week.
"When the time comes, if they want to put me in the lineup, I'll be ready to go," said Kemp, who is eligible to be activated for Friday's home opener. "I feel really good. I feel really confident. I feel like I can help this team win."
Kemp made three trips to the disabled list last season, appearing in only 73 games. After off-season surgery on his left ankle and left shoulder, he's been limited to intrasquad and minor league camp games this spring.
"There's been a lot of rehabbing going on the last year and a half," said Kemp, who will hit against teammate Josh Beckett in a simulated game Monday in San Diego.
"Rehab sucks. Just rehabbing, trying to get something to feel better and it won't feel better. It just takes time."
Because of that Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly declined to set a date for Kemp's return.
"As long as we're going forward," he said. "I don't want to throw the timetable out there just because I don't want it to be a setback if we're not 100% sure of it. Right now everything's going really well for Matt."
Ryu in line for start
Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu threw in the bullpen Friday afternoon, and if he experiences no setbacks he is expected to be named the starting pitcher Sunday in San Diego when the Dodgers kick off the domestic portion of their season.
Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to pitch that game but he was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back. Ryu was also considered doubtful after partially tearing the nail off the big toe on his right foot during Sunday's game in Australia. But the toe healed quickly enough for Ryu to resume running and other baseball activities.
"Hyun-Jin feels good, so we're being cautious at this point to just wait until we get the final verdict," Mattingly said. "He hasn't backed off from anything. We think all those have been good signs.
"If he's healthy, he's going to be the guy."
If Ryu is unable to go, Mattingly said he probably would turn to right-hander Dan Haren.
Kershaw and his back
Kershaw's back — he's been diagnosed with inflammation of a muscle in the upper back near the left shoulder — is also healing quickly, and the left-hander threw without pain Friday for the first time since his 102-pitch effort last week in Australia.
"Obviously he wasn't out trying to throw 95 [mph]. But he didn't feel anything," Mattingly said. "It tells me we've taken a little step forward. I'm not saying it means a whole lot at this point, but it does mean we continue on with the process of moving forward."
Mattingly said Kershaw will throw again Saturday with a little more intensity but with the season just two games old, the manager stressed that he would continue to proceed slowly with the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
"Every day is going to be a little bit of a barrier to cross. We're not going to let him go out there unless he's 100%," Mattingly said. "If there's any doubt that he's 100% then we're going to hold him back."