After what seemed like a slower than expected process, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp’s recovery from off-season ankle surgery has suddenly seen an increase in speed. Kemp first advanced from solely participating in batting practice to turning and running down fly balls. On Saturday, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the center fielder was close to playing in a game. By Sunday, Kemp took another step forward.
While it wasn’t quite what Mattingly meant, Kemp played in minor league games on Sunday without any pain and is upbeat about his recovery, according to Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com:
I’m out there running again. I am happy. I’m good, said Kemp. Oh-for-7, but I’ve been swinging really good in the other intrasquad [simulated] games. I’ve gotten more at-bats than the other guys on the big league side. I’ve got to get stronger with my legs.
Though Kemp was unable to tally a hit, Gurnick reports he did appear to run normal on a ground ball out. While Kemp won’t be ready to play come the Opening Series in Australia, his recent progress is encouraging and suggests he’ll be ready to play in a spring training game shortly. Despite adding more to his workouts, Kemp admitted to Gurnick he still has plenty of room for improvement and won’t rush his return:
My body will tell me when I’m ready, he said. “Hitting-wise, definitely. Running-wise, not where I need to be. I’ll keep running until my body tells me I’m able to compete on the Major League level. I don’t feel as strong as I should.
His workout was observed by athletic trainer Stan Conte, who indicated that Kemp was now in Stage 6 of a seven-stage rehab.
It’s been a long road to recovery for Kemp, who has been battling multiple injuries for much of the last two seasons. If he manages to appear in a Spring Training game soon, he could be ready to play in the Dodgers first home series, which begins on April 5.
Update: Mattingly confirms Kemp will not travel with the team to Australia, via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
#Dodgers mgr Don Mattingly confirmed Matt Kemp is not going to Australia. Will stay in Glendale, rehabbing ankle, getting ready for season.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 9, 2014
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