GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Matt Kemp's recovery from October ankle surgery moved to another phase this weekend as he was cleared to increase his on-field activities.
Kemp has been limited to running on a treadmill, taking batting practice and fielding ground balls in the outfield through the first three weeks of spring training. But the latest MRI and examination of his left ankle showed sufficient healing for him to increase that activity and begin doing some running on the field.
"Stan (Conte, Dodgers' vice president of medical services) categorized this as step five of seven steps," manager Don Mattingly said. "There's still a couple stages to go through before he's ready to play in games."
Mattingly and Kemp emphasized that there is still no timetable for when Kemp will be cleared to take that step.
"Your guess is better than mine," Kemp said. "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 want 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."
The Dodgers will break camp in Arizona on March 16 and fly to Australia for a two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22-23. Kemp will not make that trip but could stay behind and continue his rehab at Camelback Ranch by playing in minor league games or simulated games arranged on the minor league side of the Dodgers' complex.
"I can't really put a timetable on it because I don't know what my body's going to feel like," Kemp said. "But everyone should know that I'm getting better."
--RHP Chad Billingsley threw curveballs as part of his bullpen session March 1. It was the first time Billingsley has thrown breaking balls since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April and represents another step forward in his recovery.
--RHP Zack Greinke left his first spring start after just four pitches with a mild right calf strain Feb. 27. Greinke was limited to flat-ground throwing the next two days and it is uncertain when he will return to pitching in games. The setback could take Greinke out of consideration to start one of the Dodgers' two games in Australia March 22-23.
--RHP Ross Stripling, one of the Dodgers' top-rated pitching prospects, began experiencing discomfort in his elbow about a week ago but did not say anything to Dodgers' trainers or coaches. After a two-inning appearance in the Dodgers' second Cactus League game, however, Stripling, 24, admitted to the pain and was sent for a contrast MRI on his elbow. The preliminary diagnosis is a strained ligament with the MRI expected to provide more specifics.
--INF/OF Chone Figgins started three of the Dodgers' first four Cactus League games, each at a different position -- shortstop, left field and center field. Figgins is in camp as a non-roster invitee trying to make the Dodgers as a utility player. He sat out all of 2013 after being released by the Seattle Mariners following the 2012 season and the Miami Marlins in spring training 2013.
--INF Justin Sellers was traded from the Dodgers to the Indians for cash considerations. Sellers was designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for SS Erisbel Arruebarrena, the Cuban defector signed by the Dodgers. Arruebarrena is still in the Dominican Republic working out at the Dodgers' complex there until he receives a visa to travel to the United States.
Sellers, 28, was the Dodgers' Opening Day starter at shortstop last year after Hanley Ramirez was injured during the World Baseball Classic. He batted .199 in 82 games spread over the past three seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I never thought running would be so fun." -- OF Matt Kemp after being cleared to do some running on the field during workouts. Kemp is recovering from surgery on his left ankle performed last October.
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Josh Beckett
The Dodgers' starting pitchers had the lowest collective ERA in the majors last season (3.13). More of the same is expected from two-time Cy Young Award winner Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu.
The back of the rotation is more of a question. Haren looked rejuvenated in the second half of 2013 with the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers are counting on that continuing. Beckett is returning from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome and will get the first shot at filling the fifth starter's spot. The schedule will allow him ample time to recover (the Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until April 19 if they choose). But the Dodgers added free-agent LHP Paul Maholm as an alternative if Beckett cannot return. Chad Billingsley (Tommy John recovery) is pegged for a May or June return, possibly giving the Dodgers another alternative.
RHP Kenley Jansen (closer)
RHP Brian Wilson
RHP Chris Perez
LHP J.P. Howell
RHP Jamey Wright
RHP Brandon League
LHP Paco Rodriguez
Wilson and Howell unexpectedly re-signed after reaching free agency last fall, giving the Dodgers potentially the deepest bullpen in the National League. Young arms like Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez and Onelki Garcia will be one step away, ready as fill-ins should any of the front-line relievers stumble -- or could be used as midseason trade chips.
Wilson, Perez and League give the Dodgers three former All-Star closers -- and none of them will be closing. That role remains Jansen's. Wilson and Perez will work as his setup men, getting only the occasional save opportunity to prevent overwork for Jansen.
1. RF Yasiel Puig
2. LF Carl Crawford
3. SS Hanley Ramirez
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
5. 3B Juan Uribe
6. CF Andre Ethier
7. C A.J. Ellis
8. 2B Alex Guerrero
Two mysteries need to be solved before manager Don Mattingly starts writing out lineups in games that count. When will Matt Kemp be ready to play? Is Alex Guerrero ready to make the jump to the majors?
Kemp is not likely to be recovered from shoulder and ankle surgeries in time to play in Australia and could miss more time after that. When he does return, though, the Dodgers will have a dilemma -- how to play four everyday outfielders? It could create admirable depth in the lineup and the roster. But it could also create unwelcome tension and on-going drama over playing time.
Guerrero, meanwhile, was signed for $28 million over four years after defecting from Cuba last year. The Dodgers expect him to be their primary second baseman. But Guerrero was almost exclusively a shortstop in Cuba and there are questions about how much of his offensive production will translate in the majors.
TOP ROOKIES: 2B Alex Guerrero is the only rookie who figures to play a significant role for the Dodgers this year -- and he's hardly your typical rookie. Guerrero is 27 years old and a two-time All-Star in Cuba's Serie Nacionale. Beyond Guerrero, a handful of pitchers could see action as rookies if the Dodgers dip into their pitching depth. LHP Onelki Garcia and RHP Jose Dominguez saw some big-league action last year. The Dodges might have to turn to RHP Zach Lee, RHP Ross Stripling or LHP Chris Reed if their front five suffers injuries.
--RHP Zack Greinke (mild right calf strain) left his Feb. 27 start with the injury. There is a chance he won't be ready for the season-opening series in Australia.
--OF Matt Kemp (left shoulder and left ankle surgeries in October 2013) resumed running in early March, but there was no timetable for his return to game action. Kemp's shoulder apparently is healed.
--RHP Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery in April 2013) was throwing bullpen sessions in late February, and he mixed in curveballs for the first time March 1. He is targeting a return in May or June.
--LHP Scott Elbert (Tommy John surgery in June 2013, appendectomy in January 2014) went on the 60-day disabled list Feb. 8. He is not expected back until midseason after his third elbow surgery in less than two years.
--RHP Josh Beckett (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July 2013) had a rib removed to address nerve issues that were causing numbness and tingling in his pitching hand. He was cleared to start a normal spring throwing program. The Dodgers hope he will be ready to begin the season in their rotation.
--OF Yasiel Puig (right shoulder inflammation) was on a limited throwing program early in spring training. The ailment wasn't considered serious.
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- Don Mattingly
- Clayton Kershaw
- Zack Greinke