While the Los Angeles Dodgers are preparing for the start of the 2014 season in Australia, outfielder Matt Kemp is at Camelback Ranch continuing to rehab his surgically repaired left ankle.
Kemp has started playing more and more innings in the outfield and while the results at the plate aren’t great, he’s more concerned about how his ankle feels. Appearing on ESPNLA 710 Radio, ESPN analyst Buster Olney discussed a possible timetable for Kemp’s return to the Dodgers:
I think after watching Matt Kemp in Spring Training, he looks great. I think he’s going to have a big year coming back. Based on what I heard today, it’d be a surprise if he isn’t on the field within the first 10 days of the season.
10 days into the regular season would make a rough debut of April 12 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, but it’ll be interesting how aggressive the team will be in pushing him.
After being somewhat of an iron man early in his career, Kemp has played in only 179 games the past two seasons as he’s battled hamstring, shoulder and ankle injuries. While he’s been on the comeback trail, the 29-year-old outfielder made it clear that he won’t be a fourth outfielder when he returns, which surprised many.
When Kemp does comeback manager Don Mattingly will have decisions to make in regards to who starts on a daily basis. Yasiel Puig seems to be entrenched as the starting right fielder, but between Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, it’ll be interesting who gets the bulk of the starts.
If the decision was made on Spring Training stats and the eye test, Ethier would start in left field as Crawford is now reportedly battling shoulder inflammation and has flu. On the flipside, Ethier has been arguably the Dodgers best hitter as he looks to be locked in at the plate and hitting the ball the other way for power.
Kemp said he won’t be back until he’s fully 100 percent and if that can happen in the first half of April, the Dodgers will finally have a lineup at full strength.
ICYMI: Here’s what Dee Gordon had to say about his postgame meal, music and the Australia trip