Matt Kemp made progress in his return from a left ankle sprain and could play in a minor league rehab game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga as early as Thursday. Kemp ran the bases on Tuesday before the Dodgers' game against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium, under close scrutiny from the training staff.
"That's the most fun I've had in a while," Kemp said.
Kemp has been sidelined since spraining his ankle on July 21 in Washington D.C., and Tuesday night will be his 35th game missed on his latest disabled list stint. Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp would run the bases again on Wednesday, then will determine when Kemp will join the Class-A Quakes on a rehab assignment. Mattingly said Thursday was a possibility for Kemp to play in Rancho Cucamonga, but nothing is certain.
"We'll see when we get there. If he goes good today then he'll run tomorrow, and then we'll see," Mattingly said. "I can tell just looking at his reaction (that Kemp felt good). He had a big smile on his face, knowing he was able to make turns, go hard and stop and all that."
Minor league seasons, including for the Quakes, end on Monday, so Kemp would at most get to play five regular season games with Rancho Cucamonga. The California League playoffs are also a possibility for Kemp, though Mattingly wouldn't say how long he thought it would take Kemp to get sharp after missing 70 of 81 games through Tuesday's game against the Cubs.
"We'll play it by ear," Mattingly said.
The pending return of Kemp gives the Dodgers the rare good problem to have, with four outfielders for three spots. It is something they have had for all of two games this season, and for really about a total of 10 innings as Kemp was hurt in both games, on July 5 and July 21.
Mattingly said of his four outfielders that Andre Ethier is the one he can play all over, and while Yasiel Puig could also play all over the club thinks Puig's best fit is in right field. Mattingly said that when they played, Carl Crawford would be in left field and Kemp in center field. When Kemp returns, all four outfielders will rotate for three spots.
"We'll see where we're at. I'm not going to try to make lineups out now," Mattingly said. "You get to a point in the season, for all of our guys, it's got to be about us winning. Matt's had a rough year physically, that's not that hard to see. I think Matt knows where we're at and sees what's going on.
"I've talked to all of our guys, we try to let them know the situation. I'm going to do the best I can trying to put what I think gives us the best chance to win. Somebody's going to be mad."
Time: 7:10 p.m.