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Dodgers' Matt Kemp has one main goal for 2013: Stay healthy

Center fielder says in first public comments after shoulder surgery this month that 'good things should happen' if he can avoid injuries. He is just starting rehabilitation work in Arizona.

October 24, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers' Matt Kemp hits a two-run home run during the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2012.
Dodgers' Matt Kemp hits a two-run home run during the fourth inning… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Around this time last year, Matt Kemp was talking about wanting to become the first player in baseball history to hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases in the same season.

The All-Star center fielder has scaled back his goals for 2013.

"Be healthy," Kemp said. "That's the main goal. If I'm healthy, good things should happen."

Kemp spoke to reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning, making his first public comments since undergoing shoulder surgery this month. Later in the day, he was scheduled to start his rehabilitation program in Phoenix.

Kemp has been assured by doctors that he will be ready to play on opening day, but his recovery will take significantly longer than he expected. What he hoped would be a cleanup procedure Oct. 5 turned into a major operation. when Dr. Neal ElAttrache determined the labrum in Kemp's left shoulder had to be reattached to the socket.

Instead of a recovery of four to six weeks, Kemp was looking at four months.

"I was definitely surprised and definitely disappointed," he said.

Kemp is believed to have suffered a labrum tear when he crashed into the outfield wall in Colorado on Aug. 28. He said he was told by doctors at the time that he could play the remainder of the season without doing further damage to the shoulder.

But Kemp's performance noticeably suffered. He hit .214 in the 28 games that followed his headfirst crash into the wall. In the wake of the operation, doctors told Kemp they were surprised he was able to play through the injury.

"It was worse than they thought," Kemp said.

Kemp, who sat out 51 games earlier in the season because of a strained hamstring, finished the season batting .303 with 23 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

At this early stage, he can't tell how he's recovering.

"It's a little sore," he said. "Other than that, everything is cool."

Kemp isn't expected to be able to swing a bat until January but noted, "That's the time I usually start hitting anyway."

Kemp has talked to teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, who recovered from similar operations.

"Adrian said I'll be good, I'll feel better, I'll get my strength back," Kemp said.

Gonzalez said this month that it would be important for Kemp to restrain himself from doing too much too soon. Kemp said that could be a challenge.

"I'm sitting here not doing much," he said. "I'm definitely getting the itch to get back out there and get ready for the season."

Asked whether he was concerned that he could be lacking power early in the season, Kemp replied, "I'm not concerned. As long as I do my rehab right, I'll be back to where I want to be and be capable of doing what I need to do to help my team win."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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