Matt Kemp: I'm a starting OF

Updated: August 28, 2013, 12:54 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers star outfielder Matt Kemp said Tuesday that he views himself as an every-day player when he returns, which could be as soon as next week.

Kemp's return could create a delicate situation now that the Dodgers have Yasiel Puig and two other outfielders who view themselves as every-day contributors.

"I'm a center fielder. That's my role, to play center field every day," Kemp said after testing his injured left ankle by running the bases. "I don't know why people keep asking me what role I'm going to play. I want to play every day. I don't like to sit out games. I like to give my team a chance to win, and I feel like I can do that."

Kemp said he felt good after Tuesday's workout, and he could begin a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga as soon as Thursday.

People have wondered what manager Don Mattingly would do with four every-day outfielders since Puig arrived from Double-A Chattanooga on June 3, but it has been a nonissue because of injuries to Kemp and Carl Crawford. Kemp has been on the 15-day disabled list three times this season, missing 68 games.

Kemp injured his ankle sliding into home plate July 21, the only day Mattingly had all four outfielders healthy.

He was the runner-up to National League MVP Ryan Braun in 2011, when Kemp led the league in home runs, RBIs, runs and total bases.

Kemp had left shoulder surgery last October, two months after injuring himself colliding with an outfield wall in Colorado. Kemp is batting .263 with a career-low .381 slugging percentage in 62 games this season.

"Obviously, I don't want to throw anybody aside, but I think you get to a point in a season, for all of our guys, it's got to be about us winning, and Matt's had a rough year physically," Mattingly said. "That's not that hard to see, so I think Matt's going to understand where we're at. He sees what's going on.

"We talked to all our guys. We try to let them know the situation. I'm going to do the best I can, based on what I think gives us the best chance to win, and somebody's going to be mad. We've already talked about it. I don't expect them not to be mad. If they weren't mad, I'd probably be worried about them."

Andre Ethier's playing time could be affected most by Kemp's return. He shifted to center field to accommodate Puig and has played better defense than the Dodgers expected. Ethier is batting .271 with nine home runs and a .356 on-base percentage.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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