LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp has moved a step closer to returning from his severe ankle sprain -- and the Los Angeles Dodgers are once again a step closer to trying to juggle four healthy outfielders.
It didn't last long before. Kemp and Carl Crawford returned from hamstring injuries in early July, but Kemp injured his shoulder in his first game back. Two weeks later, he was back, and the Dodgers' outfield was overloaded again. But Kemp injured his left ankle in that game.
He cleared a final hurdle in recovering from that injury Tuesday when he ran the bases as part of his workout. He could start a minor league rehab assignment as soon as Thursday and be back in the Dodgers' lineup early next week.
"It was pretty fun to be out there running the bases again. It had been awhile," Kemp said. "(I was) not scared but just a little hesitant. Getting out there and running for the first time, you don't know how it's going to feel. But everything felt pretty much normal."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wasn't ready to say how he would spread the playing time among Kemp, Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig when -- if -- all four are available. But he made it clear his priorities would be on winning games, not keeping anyone happy.
"Obviously, I don't want to throw anybody aside," Mattingly said. "But I think you get to a point in the season and -- for all of our guys -- it's got to be about us winning. Matt's had a rough year physically. That's not hard to see. I think Matt's got to understand where we're at. He sees what's going on. I'm going to do the best I can to give us the best chance to win.
"Somebody's going to be mad. We've already talked about it before. I expect somebody to be mad. If they weren't mad, then I'd probably be worried. I want our guys to want to play, and they all think they can play."
Kemp did not take kindly to questions about how he would fit in when he returns from his latest injury.
"I don't know why people keep asking me about my role," he said. "I'm a center fielder. That's my role -- to play center field every day.
"I want to play every day. I don't like to sit out games. I like to play. I like to give my team a chance to win every day, and I feel like I can do that."