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DODGERS SPRING REPORT

Matt Kemp says a 40-40 season is possible

Outfielder believes he is capable of hitting that many home runs and stealing that many bases during his career.

March 09, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

PHOENIX — Center fielder Matt Kemp said he hears about the rumblings among scouts. He said he hears the screams of fans, who sometimes shout his way, "40-40 this year!"

So will this be the year that Kemp puts up the kind of numbers that mirror his seemingly limitless ceiling? Can he hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases?

"Sure," he said. "I think I'm capable of doing something like that."

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre was more cautious in his forecast, saying, "It's all about walking before he can run."

But Torre said he was pleased with the way Kemp was approaching his job and that a 40-40 season wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

"He's not taking anything for granted," Torre said. "He's working hard. There's no reason, with his ability, that wouldn't happen."

Kemp, who said he didn't put much of an emphasis on conditioning in any previous off-season, worked out with a track coach this winter. He also spent considerable time in Encino with his personal hitting coach, former Dodger Reggie Smith. The early work with Smith has been replaced this spring by early work with Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who is trying to convince Kemp to trust his reflexes and wait longer on pitches.

Kemp said his goal was to cut down on his strikeouts; he struck out 153 times last year to set a franchise record.

"I'm still learning," Kemp said. "I'm getting more comfortable every year. I made some mistakes when I was younger, but you just learn from your mistakes."

Seeking redemption

Looking back at his glory days, pitcher Jeff Weaver admits that he didn't realize how easily everything could slip away. That was particularly true, he said, after he was part of the St. Louis Cardinals team that won the 2006 World Series.

"I didn't come back and work as hard as I should have," Weaver said.

Weaver had a 7-13 record and a career-high 6.20 earned-run average with the Seattle Mariners in 2007. He spent all of last season in the minors.

"You don't want to end like that," Weaver said.

So at 32, he is back with the Dodgers, for whom he won a total of 27 games in 2004 and 2005. Signed to a minor league contract, he is trying to make the team as a reliever.

"Sometimes you start taking things for granted and think that your natural ability is going to make you successful," he said. "This winter, I worked my tail off."

The results have been promising. Weaver has pitched three scoreless innings over his two Cactus League outings.

Short hops

Jason Schmidt, who was never healthy enough to pitch last spring, will make his Cactus League debut today when the Dodgers visit the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Schmidt is scheduled to start and pitch an inning. . . . Hong-Chih Kuo is to pitch in a "B" game this morning against the Chicago White Sox, his first spring outing. . . . Sandy Koufax made a stop at Camelback Ranch but left without working with any of the Dodgers pitchers, as he had in previous springs in Vero Beach, Fla. Koufax was in the area visiting his wife's daughter, Torre said. . . . Orlando Hudson left the Dodgers' 9-4 loss to the White Sox on Sunday in the bottom of the fourth inning because of flu-like symptoms. . . . The Dodgers haven't closed the door on adding a free-agent reliever, Torre said. Situational left-handers Joe Beimel and Will Ohman remain available.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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