Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: February 15, 1:05 PM ET
Matt Kemp 'won't accept' bench role

By Mark Saxon
ESPNLosAngeles.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers might go into the 2014 season with four everyday options for three outfield spots, but one of those players now has made his stance crystal clear.

Matt Kemp says he's no bench player.

"I'm not a fourth outfielder. We can cut that off right there," Kemp said. "I won't accept that role. I can't accept that role."

The Dodgers held their first full-squad workout Friday, and for now, the surplus is a nonissue. Kemp has yet to begin running as he recovers from October ankle surgery and has acknowledged he likely won't be ready for Opening Day, which comes about a week early for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks in Australia.

Kemp, however, is expected to return in early April. Assuming he, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig all remain healthy, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will have to figure out some combination to keep all four players in the mix.

The Dodgers listened to trade offers for Kemp and their other outfielders this winter, but no teams made an offer they found particularly tempting. Presuming Kemp proves he is healthy by the end of spring training, those talks could revive.

"The [general manager], his job is to do what he does, and I'm going to do what I do. My job is to help the team win," Kemp said. "We've all got decisions to make and responsibilities. I'm sure it'll all, you know, come out the way it's supposed to come out, but I can't worry about things I can't control."

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, told of Kemp's remarks on ESPNLA 710's "Max & Marcellus" show, agreed with Kemp.

"He's not a fourth outfielder. He's not," Colletti said.

However, the GM emphasized the importance of depth through injuries and slumps.

"We've also got 162 games, and we've got to get everybody healthy and ready to play," he said. "There may be one guy sitting here and there, if everybody's healthy. Did we have everybody healthy last year?"

Colletti also said the Dodgers currently are not in a position to decide whether to make a move and trade one of the outfielders.

"After I see that everybody's really healthy, and nobody needs a break, and everybody's hitting both sides, both left-handed and right-handed pitching, and everybody's having a tremendous year and nobody seems to need any break, I guess then I'd consider it," he said. "But until I get to that point ... I got nothing to consider.

"I've been dealing with this for over a year here and I've yet to have a stretch of time where I've had four guys that are healthy all the time, playing great all the time, ready to be in there every time."

Kemp, 29, batted .324 and led the National League in home runs (39) and RBIs (126) in 2011 but has been beset by hamstring, shoulder and ankle injuries the past two seasons. He had a career-low .723 OPS last season in 73 games.

Kemp said he has no idea when he will be cleared to run this spring but that his swing feels more powerful than it did coming off his first shoulder surgery a year ago. It took Kemp until May 20 last season to hit his second home run. He had a second, clean-up procedure on his shoulder shortly after the October ankle surgery.

"I couldn't really get through the ball. If anybody knows my swing, when y'all see that go up in the air like that," Kemp said, lifting his left arm over his head, "you know something good happened. I was cutting my swing off. I couldn't get extension, man. I couldn't do a lot of things."