Matt Kemp injury: Dodgers outfielder sending mixed messages on health

Doug Pensinger

The news surrounding Matt Kemp's health status heading into spring training is still unclear.

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp still may not be fully healthy after undergoing two surgeries on his ankle and shoulder this offseason. Kemp is still optimistic about his health for the upcoming season, however, according to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

"I'm not made of glass," Kemp said. "I'm a beast still."

After finishing runner-up as the NL's MVP in 2011, Kemp has been plagued by injuries for two straight seasons. The 29-year-old underwent surgery for a torn labrum back in 2012 and played in just 73 games for the Dodgers last year, batting .270/.328/.395 with six home runs.

Despite his optimism, Kemp also stated that he still isn't back to running at full speed and doesn't have a timetable for his return. The center fielder's ankle surgery was the more serious of the two operations he has undergone this offseason. His fractured talus bone, which he injured in late September after returning from a previous injury, required microfracture surgery that required a doctor had to drill holes into his bone to help promote the growth of cartilage.

"I'm going to be on my own program for the moment," Kemp stated. "I'm not rushing back. I want to be 100 percent. When I'm 100 percent, that's when I'll start playing."

For now the Dodgers and Kemp are remaining cautious with his ailments after the eight-year veteran admitted to coming back too soon from his various injuries in 2013. He has kept his conditioning up by working out on an anti-gravity treadmill, but he hasn't run outdoors yet, which will be a bigger test for his left ankle.

As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, Kemp's status for Opening Day remains unclear.

There is no doubting Kemp's ability when he is healthy. The 29-year-old led the NL in home runs back in 2011 with 39, but hasn't been able to stay on the field since then. In 2013, he missed significant playing time throughout June and July, and didn't play a game in August before injuring his ankle upon his return in September.

Kemp is just two years into the eight-year, $160 million contract extension he signed after the 2011 season. That contract looks like a risky move for the Dodgers at the moment, but if Kemp can return to health at any point in 2014, a strong Dodgers lineup should only get better.

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