LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp tested his sprained left ankle running the bases for the first time on Tuesday, and the Dodgers center fielder could begin a Minor League rehab assignment as early as Thursday.
The Dodgers want to see how Kemp's ankle responds to Tuesday's workout and have him run the bases again on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could play in a rehab game the following day.
"I was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be really, really good," Kemp said after running the bases for the first time since he sprained his ankle July 21. "It was fun to get out there and run. It's been a while. I'm getting there. I was a little hesitant getting out there and running for the first time. You don't know what to expect, you don't know what it's going to feel like. But it went better than I thought it would."
Kemp has been out more than a month since injuring his ankle in an awkward slide at the plate in his first game back from a stint on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. He has 37 at-bats in the Major Leagues since June 25 and said he's unsure of how many rehab games he needs.
"I just need to get at-bats, that's it," Kemp said. "I've been sitting out a while. I need to polish up on my swing, and go for a couple days and get some at-bats."
Whenever Kemp returns to the Dodgers, manager Don Mattingly will likely have four capable outfielders for three spots in Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and rookie Yasiel Puig.
Kemp has played in 62 games with the Dodgers and missed 70. He does not want to sit when he's activated.
"My role is to play center field every day," Kemp said. "I want to play every day. I don't like to sit out of games. I like to play. I like to give my team a chance to win and I feel like I can do that."
But Kemp might not get his wish.
"I don't want to throw anybody aside, but you get to a point in the season, and for all of our guys it's got to be about us winning and Matt's had a rough year physically, it's not that hard to see," Mattingly said. "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."
Mattingly said Puig sometimes looks tired mentally, and Kemp's return would help give the Cuban a breather. In the end, one of those four outfielders will be on the bench at the start of each game.
"Somebody is going to be mad," Mattingly said. "I don't expect them not to be mad. If they weren't mad, then I'd probably be worried about them. I want our guys to want to play, and they all think they can play. So that's a good thing."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.