LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers could soon make an addition to their roster much more significant that the normal September call-ups from the minor leagues. Center fielder Matt Kemp will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday night with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, returning from a left ankle sprain that has sidelined Kemp since July 21.
Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp would likely be the designated hitter on Thursday night as the Quakes host High Desert at 7:05 p.m. PT.
Kemp ran the bases on Tuesday, for the first time since injuring his ankle, and said before Wednesday's game against the Cubs that he felt great. He continued to run on Wednesday and was cleared to play by Dodgers director of medical services, Stan Conte.
"Matt's ready," Mattingly said. "He passed all the tests."
Kemp is hitting just .263/.319/.382 with five home runs in 62 games this season, but his 2013 has been an injury plagued campaign. He was slowed for the first two months after recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, then has had three different stints on the disabled list for, in order, a right hamstring strain, irritation in the AC joint of his left shoulder and a sprained right ankle.
After the hamstring strain, which shelved Kemp for 24 games in May and June, he has hit .324/.390/.622 with three home runs in 11 games. But he has also missed the last 36 games through Wednesday, a streak that will likely end soon.
"At least it's gotten that far. It seems like it's taken a while, but we're there," Mattingly said. "We have kind of survived, and hopefully we can get Matt sharp. It gives us more options on our players."
Rancho Cucamonga has five games left in their regular season, which ends Monday. But they have a one-game lead on a playoff spot and, if needed, Kemp's rehab could extend into the Cal League postseason. But Kemp returning to the Dodgers fully healthy, and ready, remains the primary goal.
"Even though time is running out, we still have to make sure he gets right before he gets out there," Mattingly said.