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Matt Kemp cleared for more baseball activities, still no timetable for return

The Dodgers center fielder will be able to increase baseball activities and do some running, but there is still no set date for his return to games.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE -- The Dodgers got good news from the MRI exam of Matt Kemp's left ankle, but there is still no timetable for the outfielder's return. Kemp has been cleared to increase his baseball activities, but his running will still be monitored, and limited.

"His MRI was good, at least to the point where we're allowed to move forward. He's able to do more things. You'll see him out on the field more, you'll see him doing more stuff," manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday. "It doesn't mean he's full go or that he'll be playing games in a week. It's just part of a process of him getting ready."

Kemp had microfracture surgery on his left ankle on Oct. 21 and has been limited to light work in the field thus far in camp. He has mostly been limited to running on an anti-gravity treadmill but will now be able to run in straight lines (running curves, or the bases comes later) and do agility work, too.

"I think you'll see him do some running. I'm not quite sure he'll be sprinting," Mattingly said. "But you'll see him do a lot of different things out on the field."

Kemp jogged on Friday during workouts.

"I never thought running would be so fun," he said. "It's been a while since I've been able to do running without being 80% body weight. Today was pretty good."

The MRI results were reviewed by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. Robert Andreson in North Carolina, who performed Kemp's ankle surgery.

"I'm just glad that I'm not having any setbacks or the MRI isn't showing any negative things. It's showing signs of improvement and where the doctor did the microfracture is healing really well. Everything is going as planned. You've got to take your time and make sure everything is okay, so when I do come back I won't have any more setbacks," Kemp said. "I'm getting close to where I need to be. I'll continue to hit and do all those things to be ready. When it's time I'll be ready to run and I'll already be in game mode, hitting-wise."

"Stan [Conte, team trainer] categorized this as step five of seven steps. There are still stages before he can be ready to play games," Mattingly said.

What are those final two steps?

"You're guess is better than mine," Kemp said, laughing. "Honestly it's a feeling thing. Not anybody can tell me how I feel but I can tell them how I feel. I have to be right with myself and make sure I'm able to do a first-to-third or be able to score on a base hit from second base. I don't wan't to have any negative thoughts in my head. I want to be able to go out there and play aggressive and steal bases when I can, and do some of those athletic things that everybody is used to me doing."

Kemp said he would like to play in Cactus League games, but if that isn't feasible just getting at-bats against major league or near-major league pitchers in minor league games would help. He hit in simulated games against Dodgers minor league pitchers at Camelback Ranch last September before getting activated from the disabled list. He hit .314/.385/.486 with three doubles and a home run in 11 games before getting shut down for the playoffs on the season's final day.

"I came back in Arizona and felt really, really good, and it was all because I was getting 15 at-bats per day," Kemp said. "It really helps me with me with my timing."

There is still no timetable for Kemp's return, but he is getting excited in his improvement while also patiently sticking with his rehabilitation plan.

"You don't want to get ahead of yourself. Sometimes you get too happy and you want to try to do more. I just want to have faith in the program, and do everything they ask me to do and not anything extra. Of course I would love to work out extra and run extra, but that's not in the plans," Kemp said. "Every day I come in the morning they have a plan for me, and whatever it is they want me to do I'll do it. I just have to be patient. I've got to be able to have faith in my leg.

"I can't really put a timetable on it because I don't know what my body's going to feel like. But everyone should know that I'm getting better.