Kemp facing mental hurdles in rehab process

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Going into Friday's action, Matt Kemp was 0-for-8 with three strikeouts, a couple of flyouts to the warning track and the lingering memory of a shoulder that required surgical repair in October.

"I need to [let it go]," said Kemp. "Adrian [Gonzalez, who had similar surgery] told me to just let it go. I need to swing like I swing. It's still in the back of my mind."

Manager Don Mattingly, who lived the unsteady life of a rehabbing ballplayer because of chronic back issues, can appreciate the psychological hurdles Kemp faces in his return from left shoulder surgery.

"I talked to Matt in the weight room and it's still, I think, in the back of his mind a little bit," said Mattingly. "He has to let it loose. The more at-bats he doesn't feel anything, the more he's fine the next day, then he can just go out and play.

"He talked about not feeling athletic. He's been rehabbing, really, since he had the hammy [hamstring issue last May] in a sense. He's been playing handicapped. He's ready to get to where he can just go play. That is a hurdle. When you're in rehab mode, it takes energy mentally. It will be nice when he can just come to the park and just play."

Kemp, who took a called third strike in his only at-bat of Friday's rained-out game against the Giants, said he's still looking for the rhythm of his swing.

"I've got 24 days to get it, and if I go into the first game and don't have it, I still wouldn't be worried because I've got 161 more games," said Kemp. "It's a long season. Trust me, I will find it before the season is over with."

Kemp said he needs to apply the same mentality for his shoulder that he finally did with the hamstring muscle he pulled last year.

"If it goes, it goes," he said. "There's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing I'm really worried about."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.