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Dodgers' Matt Kemp aims for opening day, not opening of camp

January 19, 2013|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, shown in action last year, says, "I'm not trying to be 100% in spring training. I'm trying to be 100% for the first game of the season."
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, shown in action last year, says, "I'm… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

Matt Kemp said Saturday he expects the Dodgers to limit his activity in spring training as he completes a rehabilitation program for his left shoulder.

“I’m not trying to be 100% in spring training,” Kemp said. “I’m trying to be 100% for the first game of the season.”

Kemp, the Dodgers’ All-Star center fielder, met with reporters before serving as grand marshal of the Los Angeles Kingdom Day Parade, in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Instead of wearing a Dodgers jersey with his name and number on the back, Kemp chose to wear a jersey with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

“It’s a very special day for me,” Kemp said.

Kemp suffered a torn labrum when he crashed into the outfield wall in Colorado last August. He said he still feels what he is told is normal post-operative soreness and has not resumed all baseball drills.

“I have my good days and I have my bad days,” he said. “I’ll be ready for the season, and that’s all that pretty much matters.”

Kemp said he was not concerned about a loss of slugging power. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a similar procedure in October 2010. He was limited to 11 games the following spring and hit one home run in April, but he finished the season with 27 home runs.

“Adrian said I’ll be good by the season,” Kemp said. “Everybody is saying something different. Everybody’s body heals differently. So hopefully I have that Adrian Peterson body, where you heal real fast. I feel really good right now.”

Kemp finished second in the National League most valuable player voting in 2011, when he hit 39 home runs and stole 40 bases. He predicted a 50-50 encore, but he was limited to 106 games in 2012 because of hamstring and shoulder injuries. He hit 23 home runs and stole nine bases.

He offered no statistical predictions, bold or otherwise, for the coming season.

“For me, my goal this year is just to stay healthy for 162 games,” Kemp said. “Whatever happens after that, happens. As long as I stay healthy, I’m going to go out there and perform. The numbers are going to be there.”

Center fielder Michael Bourn remains available in free agency, and analysts have wondered whether by signing him the Dodgers might benefit in two ways — by adding a genuine leadoff hitter, and by moving Kemp to a corner outfield position with presumably less risk of injury. Such a move would probably require the Dodgers to trade Andre Ethier.

Kemp did not have much to say about the Bourn speculation other than to say the Dodgers’ front office has “done a great job this off-season.” He did, however, say that he does not expect to play more cautiously in center field.

“I play hard. I run into walls,” Kemp said. “Maybe I need to be more in control when I’m getting to a wall, but me jumping into fences and diving — I’m not going to change my game up. I’m still going to do what I need to do to help my team win.”

That priority, he said, was why he played the final month with the injured shoulder. He hit .159 with two home runs in the first 20 games following the injury, but he closed the season with four home runs in the final eight games.

“I had already been out for almost two months,” Kemp said. “Them telling me I needed to shut it down and think about getting surgery or resting it, I just couldn’t do it. I had to go out there and continue to play. That’s what I do. I like to play baseball. I don’t like to sit on the bench.”

Kemp, who planned to attend the Wizards-Clippers game Saturday night, predicted the Lakers’ season would not end with the regular season.

“They’re still going to make the playoffs,” he said. “When they do, they might get that last seed, but, whoever it is they play in the first round, it’s not going to be one of those regular first-round 1 seed kills the 8 seed. The Lakers are good. They just have to come together.

“It’s kind of like our team. You get all these new guys coming in, a new system, and people have got to get used to it. Adrian and all those guys came in, and it was great for them to come in, but it still felt a little weird. It’s like we had a brand new team and we didn’t know much about each other. I think this year, for us, is going to be even better. We know everybody, and we know what everybody expects.

“It’s just like the Lakers. They have a lot of new guys, and when they get that chemistry going, they’re going to be a dangerous team to beat.”

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