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Matt Kemp says he's ready to return

3/29/2014 - MLB Matt Kemp Los Angeles Dodgers + more

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp left his rehab assignment in Arizona and joined the Dodgers before their game against the Angels on Friday, pronouncing himself healthy enough to play.

Kemp is eligible to come off the disabled list April 4, when the Dodgers play their home opener against the San Francisco Giants.

"I'm ready to go," Kemp said. "When the time comes, if they want to put me in the lineup, I'll be ready to go. That's all I've been doing is working, running and getting in shape and getting ready to play this whole season."

Kemp, 29, was on a different timetable than the rest of his teammates in spring training coming off left ankle surgery. Once doctors cleared him to run, he played in two weeks of minor-league spring training games. He said he knew he was healthy enough to return when he was able to steal a couple of bases.

"One of my biggest obstacles was trying to slide and seeing how that would feel," Kemp said. "But I conquered that and now we're good."

Now, the Dodgers are finally faced with the question of what to do with four well-paid outfielders accustomed to playing every day. Andre Ethier played all three positions in the spring and figures to be the odd man out once Kemp is healthy enough to play center field every day. The idea is to use Ethier at all three spots and keep all the outfielders fresh.

Dealing with shoulder, hamstring and ankle issues last year, Kemp batted .270 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 73 games. In 2011, he nearly won the National League Triple Crown, batting .324 with 39 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 126 RBIs.

In his minor-league spring training games, Kemp batted .113 with a home run and nine strikeouts in 53 at-bats.

If Kemp stays healthy, the Dodgers would also have the option of sending Yasiel Puig, if he struggles, to the minor leagues for further seasoning. Puig has had a major impact on the team, batting .319 last season and helping spark its turnaround, but at times the Dodgers have lamented the repetition of youthful mistakes by Puig.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had some critical comments for Puig after their second game in Sydney, where he ran into two outs on the bases and later left with what he said was a sore back.