Reporting from Atlanta — — Matt Kemp smiled.
"You're trying, huh?" he said. "You keep on …"
Repeatedly poking the air in front of him with his right index finger, Kemp simulated the pushing of a button.
The questions directed at Kemp were about the statements made by his agent, former major league pitcher Dave Stewart, in a column by Bill Plaschke in the Friday edition of The Times. Stewart said he felt his client was being treated unfairly by the Dodgers' organization, particularly coaches Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa.
Kemp, who was benched for two games earlier in the week, called Stewart "the man" and said that he talks to him "every day" about "everything." But he wouldn't say whether he agreed or disagreed with anything his agent said. Among the statements made by Stewart was that if the criticisms of Kemp from within the club didn't decrease, the Dodgers and Kemp might both benefit by their trading him.
By Friday afternoon, Schaefer and Bowa had placed separate phone calls to Stewart and had air-clearing conversations with the San Diego-based agent. Schaefer, Bowa and Stewart said the talks were productive.
"We all have the same wants for Matt," Stewart said. "We want him to be the best player he can be. We're not working against each other. We're working in different ways."
Stewart emphasized that Kemp wants to remain a Dodger.
But Stewart didn't back down from the main point he made in Plaschke's column: that he no longer wanted to read newspaper stories that portrayed his client negatively and included quotes from members of the coaching staff.
Schaefer took issue with Stewart's suggestion that he had publicly criticized Kemp.
"I didn't appreciate him saying I made bad comments because I didn't," Schaefer said.
An argument in the dugout between Schaefer and Kemp in June resulted in Kemp being benched for three games, but Schaefer wasn't quoted saying anything critical in The Times' story detailing the incident.
"If I'm mistaken, I apologize," Stewart said.
Bowa was quoted in another column that appeared in The Times, this one by T.J. Simers, saying, "I wish I had Matt Kemp's tools because I would be in Cooperstown."
Bowa said he didn't understand why Stewart was upset at him.
"I said he has Hall of Fame tools," Bowa said.
Whatever disagreements they had, Schaefer said he was pleased to have opened a line of communication with Stewart. In turn, Stewart said he hopes the coaches will use him, instead of the media, as a conduit to relay any criticisms directed at Kemp.
"If that helps them to get a better idea of where Matt is, I don't mind being that guy," Stewart said.
Manny closer to returning; Furcal not
Manny Ramirez ran on a treadmill Friday, leading Manager Joe Torre to speculate that he could start a minor league rehabilitation assignment by the middle of next week. Ramirez, who on July 20 was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season, is nursing a calf strain.
But Torre said Rafael Furcal probably won't be ready to be activated Wednesday, the day he is eligible to come off the disabled list. Furcal still feels discomfort in his back and will have to play in some minor league games before returning.
The Dodgers signed their 32nd-round draft pick, Devon Ethier, Andre Ethier's younger brother. First-round pick Zach Lee remains unsigned.