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Matt Kemp on track to start in minors this week

Matt Kemp is nearing a return, but fitting him into the Dodgers' lineup won't be easy.

LOS ANGELESMatt Kemp's sprained left ankle has improved enough that he may start running the bases next week, but working him back into the Dodgers' everyday lineup is something manager Don Mattingly still must figure out.

 

The Dodgers are hoping that Kemp, who has played just 10 games since May 30 because of injuries, can work in a few minor league games starting late next week. He took a step forward Sunday in a workout with Stan Conte, who heads the team's medical services.

 

"Hopefully, he gets a couple of minor league games in," manager Don Mattingly said. "It sounds like he had a good day today. Stan said he ran really well, so it should be soon that we're talking about him running the bases in the next couple of days if he comes back good tomorrow. Once you do that, guys are usually getting ready to play."

 

Kemp has had three stints on the disabled list, first for a mild hamstring strain, then most recently when he sprained his left ankle sliding into home at Washington on July 21. He has just two home runs and 27 RBI in 228 at-bats.

 

Fitting Kemp into an outfield that currently has Carl Crawford in left, Andre Ethier in center and Yasiel Puig won't be easy. Kemp is the team's center fielder, but Ethier has played well since moving there from center and is hitting .304 since June 6.

 

Mattingly said he intends to work Kemp back in slowly, just as he did when Crawford came off the disabled list in July because of a strained left hamstring.

 

"I'm going to get him back in the mix, get him comfortable and do what I did with Carl when he was coming back from his hamstring," Mattingly said. "He gets a couple of days in there, he gets a day off. I'd be careful with him, get him back in the mix."

 

That plan may cause some discord in the clubhouse if it means someone has to sit. But Mattingly knows he'll have to deal with it.

 

"We'll be fine," he said. "Somebody's not going to be happy. I told them, I don't expect them to be happy. If you're not in the lineup and you're a guy that expects to play every day, you're not going to be happy.

 

"It's a little bit of a competition in a sense, but more than anything it'll be matchups, being able to go right-left a little more, and there's going to be tough decisions to make. I'm going to have to deal with it."