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Dodgers' Matt Kemp has high hopes for next season

Kemp almost became the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season. He wants to improve and is optimistic about the Dodgers' chances next year.

September 29, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homer against the Rockies during a game earlier this season at Dodger Stadium
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp rounds the bases after hitting a two-run… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Phoenix -- Matt Kemp made a run at the National League triple crown and nearly became the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season. He made his first All-Star team and could win his first most-valuable-player award.

But in the final weeks of the Dodgers' season, Manager Don Mattingly said he told Kemp, "True greatness is going to be over time."

In other words, let's see it again.

Kemp has ambitions greater than repeating his breakout season: "I'm going to try to be even better," he said.

With the season over, Kemp said he would spend some time with family members and friends, but he expected to start his off-season training regimen soon.

"I don't like to sit around too much," he said. "I'll take a little time off, but it won't be too much."

Kemp is optimistic about the Dodgers' chances next year of reaching the postseason, which they last made in 2009. "I feel we accomplished a lot of things in these last two months," he said. "We beat some great teams, some great pitchers too. It's all about starting off strong too, and finishing strong. We have to do that next year, come out of the gates quick."

The Dodgers, who were 14 games under .500 on July 6, finished with an 82-79 record.

Kemp was also encouraged by recent statements made by General Manager Ned Colletti that the team has money to spend this winter.

"The front office, they want to win as much as we do," Kemp said. "I'm sure next year, they'll do whatever they can to make our ballclub better and figure out ways to make it to the playoffs. If we don't make the playoffs next year it will be three years, and I'm sure they don't want that."

He said he would welcome the addition of Prince Fielder, with whom he became friendly at the All-Star game. Fielder, who hit 38 home runs and drove in 120 runs for the playoff-bound Milwaukee Brewers, will be a free agent this winter. Colletti intimated the Dodgers could pursue him.

"I would love to have him over here," Kemp said. "Adding that would help us. You always can add more pitchers and more hitters. You can never have enough."

Colletti has also said one of his top priorities would be to sign Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier to multiyear contract extensions.

Kemp will be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season but said he would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Dodgers. "Of course," he said. "We have to talk about that."

Front-office addition

Alex Tamin was hired by the Dodgers to be their director of baseball contracts, research and operations. Tamin has spent more than 15 years representing major league teams, including the Dodgers, in salary arbitration cases and contract negotiations. He will be the chief point person on the Dodgers' arbitration cases. Kemp, Kershaw and Ethier are among the players eligible for salary arbitration this off-season.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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