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DODGERS REPORT

Kemp Might Make Jump From Double A

May 21, 2006|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Emboldened by the success of recent call-ups Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Willy Aybar, the Dodgers are seriously considering promoting power-hitting outfielder Matt Kemp from double-A Jacksonville.

Kemp, 21, is batting .343 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in with 10 stolen bases in 42 games. He has 30 strikeouts and 19 walks.

The Dodgers have been making do with only four outfielders since Jason Repko went on the disabled list May 10 because of a sprained left ankle, and he is expected to sit out another month. Outfielder Ricky Ledee has been sidelined because of a pulled left groin since May 2 and could begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment in about a week.

The shortage was noticeable a few days ago in Colorado when center fielder Kenny Lofton had leg cramps, forcing him out of a game in the fifth inning and sidelining him for the next two games. Utility infielder Ramon Martinez, who played three games in left field in 2002, would have played outfield in an emergency.

Aybar, a third baseman, has been taking fly balls in practice and said he is willing to learn to play left field. But Kemp is a good defensive outfielder with excellent speed and a strong arm.

The Dodgers have also discussed promoting Joel Guzman or Delwyn Young from triple-A Las Vegas, but sources said Kemp is the leading candidate even though he is the only one of the three not on the 40-man roster. Guzman and Young are lifelong infielders who converted to the outfield this spring.

Room for a fifth outfielder would probably come by reducing the pitching staff from 12 to 11, but it is unclear how they would create room on the 40-man roster. Releasing troubled starter Odalis Perez and eating the $21 million owed him would be extremely unlikely.

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Catcher Dioner Navarro (bruised right wrist) still has not swung a bat without pain and is not close to starting a rehabilitation assignment.... Dodgers supplemental first-round draft pick Luke Hochevar struck out 10 and gave up four hits and four walks in his second regular-season start for the independent Fort Worth Cats. His fastball was consistently in the low 90-mph range and he showed an above-average curveball.

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