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Kemp doesn't plan to rush back

Dodgers center fielder says he will not play on opening day if not ready to return from surgeries for fear of risking another injury.

February 02, 2014|Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

Matt Kemp said Saturday he might not be ready to play on opening day, insisting he didn't want to repeat the mistake he made last year of rushing back from injuries.

The Dodgers are starting their season about a week earlier than usual, with a two-game series in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22-23. They will play their domestic opener April 1 in San Diego.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, February 04, 2014 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Dodgers: An article in the Feb. 2 Sports section on when the Dodgers' Matt Kemp's may return to action said the opening game for the Dodgers domestically is April 1 against the Padres in San Diego. The domestic opener is March 30 at San Diego.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, February 09, 2014 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Dodgers: An article in the Feb. 2 Sports section about when the Dodgers' Matt Kemp may return to action said that the opening game for the Dodgers domestically is April 1 against the Padres in San Diego. It is March 30 at San Diego.

Kemp is recovering from a major operation on his left ankle, as well as a minor procedure on his previously repaired left shoulder.

Speaking at the Dodgers' annual FanFest, Kemp said of the games in Australia, "If I'm ready to play, I'll play. If not, I'm not going to play. I don't want to come back at 80% and get hurt again. I want to be 100% the whole year and give everybody what I can give them with a full year of me being healthy."

Manager Don Mattingly and General Manager Ned Colletti said they agreed with him. Their caution is understandable, considering the two-time All-Star sat out a combined 148 games over the last two seasons.

Kemp said he doesn't feel any discomfort when he walks, joking, "I've got a little swag in my step right now."

However, he hasn't run outdoors since he underwent the ankle operation more than three months ago. He is running on a machine that significantly reduces the strain on his legs. He plans to be on a different training program than his teammates when he reports to spring training.

Kemp sounded more optimistic about the condition of his left shoulder.

"My shoulder is pain-free and I'm excited about that," he said. "It's been a while since I haven't felt anything in my shoulder."

He said the same shoulder bothered him "quite a bit" last season, when he was recovering from a major operation on it.

Kemp is hitting every day. He has also been throwing.

With Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford also in the outfield, the Dodgers listened to trade proposals for Kemp this off-season. Kemp said it bothered him.

"This is where I want to be, man," he said. "I don't want to be anywhere else. When you hear your name out there being thrown around, it's a little disappointing but it is what it is. It's part of the game. I can't control it."

Even in the Dodgers' crowded outfield, Kemp views himself as an everyday player.

"I'm an everyday player," he said. "I play every day. I don't even really want to talk about that because I'm trying to play every day. I'm not trying to get days off."

Mattingly said he was pleased to hear that.

Kemp not only views himself as an everyday player, he still thinks he's one of the best players in baseball.

"Of course I do," he said. "I never thought I wasn't one of the best players in the game. I work hard at this game. It's something I love to do. I've had some pretty good success at it. You've got to consider yourself one of the best to be the best and I do."

Mattingly thinks Kemp could return to where he was in 2011, when he finished second in voting for the National League's most-valuable-player award.

"People start to doubt you just because you're not on the field," Mattingly said. "They kind of forget two years ago Matt's the greatest thing on the planet. I know what's there. I know the talent's there. We just have to keep him on the field."

Ellis signs

Catcher A.J. Ellis and the Dodgers avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $3.55-million contract. Closer Kenley Jansen is now the Dodgers' only arbitration-eligible player.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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