Matt Kemp to join Dodgers this week, return closer?

David Young

The outfielder will rejoin the team likely on Thursday and could be activated as soon as the home opener on April 4.

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp plans to join the Dodgers in Los Angeles later this week, and manager Don Mattingly said there is a chance the Dodgers center fielder could be activated in time for the home opener at Dodger Stadium.

Kemp played again in a minor league game against Rangers Triple-A minor leaguers at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday, and will stay in Arizona for a few more days, likely playing Thursday then traveling to Los Angeles after the game.

Because he was placed on the disabled list, Kemp is ineligible to play in the Freeway Series against the Angels, considered major league games even though it holds exhibition status. The earliest Kemp could be activated from the DL is April 4, when the Dodgers open their home schedule against the rival Giants.

Mattingly was noncommittal as to whether Kemp would be activated from the disabled list so soon, but called that scenario "a possibility."

If the Dodgers don't plan to activate Kemp by the home opener, he could play in minor league games, but those schedules don't start until April 3. But with Kemp missing the final two spring minor league games at Camelback Ranch, that's a signal he could be close to ready to return.

Kemp had offseason surgeries on his left shoulder and left ankle in October. He recovered well enough from the shoulder surgery to be able to lift weights during the offseason, something he couldn't do after left shoulder surgery after the 2012 campaign. Kemp has been hitting in some form or another since camp began back on Feb. 8.

But recovery from the ankle surgery has been the holdup, with Kemp taking his rehab in stride and not putting any undue pressure on the ankle before it was ready. He began playing minor league games in the field on March 12. That readiness for a return to major league games appears to be sooner rather than later for Kemp.

"We've kind of left the timing up to not necessarily him, but how he's feeling now. He's had no setbacks," Mattingly said. "It's up to medical, how he's feeling, what he thinks he needs at that point. He's had a ton of at-bats. Timing wise, I haven't talked to him yet, but I bet he's feeling pretty good."

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