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Dodgers' Matt Kemp on his return: 'For me, this is a new season'

Kemp, sidelined for almost a month with a strained right hamstring, appears to be more muscular and says he feels good to be 'getting strong.' He has been working with former hitting coach Jeff Pentland.

June 25, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez

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Matt Kemp was hopeful his return from the disabled list Tuesday would mark the turning point of his season.

"For me, this is a new season, a new Matt," said Kemp, who was sidelined for almost a month with a strained right hamstring.

Before the injury, Kemp was in the midst of a miserable season, batting .251 with two home runs and 17 runs batted in.

Kemp was cleared in recent weeks to start his normal weight-lifting regimen, something he couldn't do over the winter because he was recovering from major surgery on his left shoulder. He spent a significant part of the last four weeks at the Dodgers' spring training complex in Arizona.

"I feel really buff," he said. "My chest is getting bigger. My biceps are getting bigger."

Kemp said he was kidding, but what he said in jest appeared to be true. He looked more muscular than he did earlier in the season.

"It's good to get that feeling to getting strong," he said. "You always want to feel strong out there. You never want to have that feeling that you're not that strong."

In addition to lifting weights, Kemp worked with former hitting coach Jeff Pentland, who was fired by the Dodgers in the middle of the 2011 season. Pentland is expected to continue working with Kemp as he tries to regain his form from that season.

Kemp started in center field and batted fifth. Andre Ethier, who played center field in Kemp's absence, moved back to his regular position in right field. Yasiel Puig moved from right field to left.

Kemp's minor league rehabilitation assignment consisted of three games with triple-A Albuquerque, in which the two-time All-Star was two for 11 with six strikeouts.

A Puig promotion

Before his major league career is six weeks old, Puig will have his first promotional night at Dodger Stadium. The first 40,000 fans at the Dodgers' July 14 game against the Colorado Rockies will receive a free Puig T-shirt. The shirts will be available in medium and extra-large sizes.

Hinske's suspension cut

Ruling that Eric Hinske didn't throw any punches in the Arizona Diamondbacks' brawl against the Dodgers this month, Major League Baseball reduced the reserve infielder's suspension from five games to one.

Many of the Dodgers players couldn't believe Hinske was hit with a five-game ban, referring to him as a "peacemaker" and "punching bag." Hinske believed comments by Dodgers players helped his cause.

Hinske told reporters in Washington, D.C., he still thought Puig deserved to be suspended for punching him in the back.

"I definitely feel that Puig should have been suspended, 100%," Hinske said. "He was the most out-of-control player in that whole thing. Why he didn't get suspended, I have no idea."

Short hops

Utilityman Elian Herrera was optioned to triple-A Albuquerque to make room on the active roster for Kemp. … Ted Lilly, who is on the disabled list with a strained neck, threw a simulated game at Dodger Stadium. … First-round pick Chris Anderson made his professional debut for Class-A Great Lakes, striking out five over two scoreless innings. Second-round pick Tom Windle also pitched two scoreless innings.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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