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Matt Kemp activated from DL, but not in Dodgers starting lineup

Christian Petersen

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Friday activated outfielder Matt Kemp from the 15-day disabled list in advance of their home opener against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. But in a surprise, the outfielder isn't in today's starting lineup.

Manager Don Mattingly said he wanted to ease Kemp back in. They are using the same lineup for the fourth straight game.

"I want to get Matt back into the mix, but didn't want to throw him straight into the fire," Mattingly said. "He will get into this game today. Matt's available, and a weapon."

Kemp is 6-for-20 with a home run, a triple and two walks against Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.

To make room for Kemp on the active roster, the team optioned outfielder Mike Baxter to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Kemp, recovering from offseason ankle surgery, was placed on the disabled list on March 21, when the Dodgers finalized their 28-man active roster for the two opening series games in Australia. Because of the trip down under, both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks were allowed to back date any DL moves as far back as March 19, two days earlier than the 28 other teams, provided the disabled player didn't play in any major league games, exhibition or otherwise, afterward.

Friday marks the earliest game on the Dodgers schedule Kemp could be activated.

When the team was in Sydney, Kemp stayed back at Camelback Ranch playing in minor league games, then returned to Los Angeles to join the team last Friday, though he wasn't eligible to play in any Freeway Series games.

Kemp got extra at-bats in a simulated game against Josh Beckett on Monday, and has been doing extra running drills with trainer Stan Conte in preparation for his return. Kemp declared last week he would be ready to play the home opener, and manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday that Kemp was on track for activation.

With so much build up for Kemp's return, it was pretty surprising he wasn't in the lineup. Especially to Kemp.

"He wasn't too happy about it," Mattingly said.

Kemp hit .270/.328/.395 with six home runs in 73 games in an injury-plagued 2013 campaign, sidelined by shoulder, hamstring and ankle problems. He has played in just 145 of the Dodgers' last 295 games.

Kemp's activation gives the Dodgers four healthy starting outfielders for the third time since Yasiel Puig joined the club last June. In each of the two previous times — July 5 in San Francisco and July 21 in Washington — Kemp got hurt and was unable to finish the game.

Baxter was 0-for-7 with a walk in four games in the early going of the season. The left-handed hitter started in left field in the second game against the Diamondbacks in Australia, on March 23, and appeared as a pinch hitter in three other games. Baxter, a career .300/.402/.443 hitter in 87 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, is 0-for-3 in the role so far this season.