LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers lineup Tuesday, and the Dodgers center fielder is ready for a fresh start after being activated from the disabled list.
Kemp missed 24 games with a strained right hamstring that sidelined him since May 30. He struggled before his injury, though, hitting .251 with two home runs, 10 doubles and 17 RBIs in 51 games. But he belives the time he spent away from the team will prove beneficial.
"I didn't do too well the first month and half of the season," Kemp said Tuesday after getting the green light to return following three Minor League rehab games. "For me this is a new season, a new Matt, and I just want to go out there to contribute and get this team going again."
While Kemp went 2-for-12 in three rehab games with Triple-A Albuquerque, the Dodgers received a favorable report on the outfielder's performance from former hitting coach Jeff Pentland, who was in Albuquerque. Kemp returned to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, where manager Don Mattingly watched him hit against left-hander Ted Lilly, who's on the DL, in a simulated game. Mattingly inserted Kemp into the lineup, batting fifth and playing center against the Giants.
"He was really wanting to be back and be a part of this," the manager said. "We had a pretty good little discussion about it. He feels like he's 100 percent ready to go."
In a corresponding roster move, the Dodgers optioned outfielder Elian Herrera to Triple-A.
Tuesday was the first time the Dodgers' lineup featured Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Kemp.
"Hopefully we can all get on the same page and feed off each other," Kemp said. "Hanley is swinging the bat really good. Puig is doing an unbelievable job. I'm just trying to come in here and do whatever I can to help them win games."
Kemp said his hamstring was healed and his surgically repaired left shoulder was feeling better.
"It's just time to start hitting again," he said.
Kemp was able to strengthen his shoulder in the weight room during his rehab, something he had been unable to do during the season when he was playing every day.
"I feel stronger," he said. "I got to lift a lot more weights because my shoulder is feeling much better. It's just good to get that feeling of being strong. My body feels good."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.