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Matt Kemp begins rehab program, expects to be ready by spring training

The center fielder is in Arizona to begin his rehabilitation program after left shoulder surgery.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Kemp on Tuesday flew to Arizona to begin his rehabilitation program, after his Oct. 5 left shoulder surgery. Kemp's procedure required a repair of the labrum in his left shoulder, and initial reports said the star center fielder would not be able to swing a bat until January.

"I was definitely surprised and definitely disappointed. I wish it just would have been a simple cleanup, which would have taken only about six weeks," Kemp said Wednesday. "Now, after the repair, it will be January before I get to hit and do a lot of other things."

Kemp said he expects to be ready to play well ahead of Apr. 1, when the Dodgers open their 2013 season against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

"They said I should be ready by spring training, so before opening day," said Kemp.

It was the first major surgical procedure Kemp has endured, and he was understandably nervous.

"For me, other than a little measly surgery on my hand, it was pretty scary because I've never had to have a surgery like that," Kemp said. "I think any surgery for anybody would be scary, to go under and have someone cutting on you."

Kemp suffered the shoulder injury when he crashed into the center field wall at Coors Field in Colorado on Aug. 28, the second straight day he crashed into the wall. Kemp was hitting .337/.404/.584 with 17 home runs in 78 games before literally hitting the wall. After the injury, he hit .214/.267/.420 with six home runs in his final 28 games of the season.

"I asked the doctors before I was playing, if I could damage (the shoulder) any more than it had already been damaged, and they said no," Kemp said. "When they went in there they were surprised I kept playing, because it was worse than they thought."

He hit four of those home runs in a five-game hot streak in the final week of the season, when the Dodgers won seven of their final eight games, but ultimately finished out of the playoffs, two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card in the National League.

Kemp will begin a running program in addition to his shoulder rehab at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona. He said he has been able to walk on a treadmill and ride a bike without any pain. Though he won't be able to swing a bat until January, he expects to have plenty of time to prepare for spring training.

"That's about what time I start hitting anyway. We'll see in January how I feel," Kemp said. "I'm not concerned. As long as I do my rehab right I know I'll be able to be back to where I want to be, capable of doing what I'm doing to help my team win."

But the shoulder injury wasn't the only thing that plagued Kemp in 2012. He suffered a pair of left hamstring strains in May that caused him to miss 51 of 53 games heading into the All-Star break. After he was the hottest player in baseball in April with 12 home runs in 23 games, Kemp hit 11 home runs in 83 games the rest of the way.

Kemp was also asked about Dave Hansen, who was dismissed as hitting coach by the Dodgers on Oct. 12, and found a job with the Seattle Mariners 10 days later.

"I was shocked, really. Hanny has helped me out with so many things, baseball wise and being a great friend. I was surprised that he was gone," Kemp said. "He found a job really, really quick. He's a great person and I wish him all the best."

Kemp, who talked in spring training of a 50-50 season, set a much more reasonable mark for 2013.

"Be healthy," Kemp said. That's the main goal. As simple as that."