Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp started his rehabilitation stint with… (Jose Luis Villegas / MCT )
When Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly filled out his lineup card Tuesday, he was relying on eight position players who had combined for 14 home runs in 1,344 at-bats this season.
Forty miles east on Interstate 10 stood the Dodgers' best hope for a revitalized offense in the second half, a player who hit 12 home runs in 121 at-bats in an early-season surge that had pundits talking triple crown.
In front of a sellout crowd of 6,516, Matt Kemp began his rehabilitation assignment Tuesday as the designated hitter for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Dodgers' Class-A affiliate. His projected return to the Dodgers if all goes smoothly — July 13 — must seem like ages away for the struggling Dodgers.
"It's been tougher as time goes on because you have to watch the games," said Kemp, who added that his focus is on regaining his timing at the plate. "You don't get to be out with the guys and fight with them, but I'm just taking it in stride and getting myself ready to get back out here and play."
As excited as Kemp said he was to be hitting in a game again, he wasn't overeager. He worked the count in each of his plate appearances and finished with two singles in three at-bats, a walk and a strikeout. His troublesome hamstring went mostly untested on the basepaths.
The All-Star center fielder said that he felt loose and that he was excited at the prospect of playing in the field for five or six innings Wednesday.
"I haven't played center field in a while, so it's going to be fun," he said.
Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra pitched one scoreless inning and threw 16 pitches, 13 for strikes, with only one batter reaching base on an error. The 26-year-old was removed from the closer's role by Mattingly on May 7 and has sat out nearly a month after undergoing knee surgery.
Second baseman Mark Ellis played seven innings and had two hits in four at-bats. Ellis has been sidelined since having leg surgery May 19.
Guerra and Ellis said they felt great after their appearances and expect to be activated by the Dodgers on Thursday.