SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Kemp had the surgery, did the rehab and returned to the field. Now there's just one more thing for him to do.
Forget about it.
"I need to," the Dodgers' outfielder said when asked if he was still holding back at the plate and had yet to really cut loose.
"I need to swing like I swing. Adrian (Gonzalez) told me the other day, 'Dude, you've just got to go out there and let it go. You did all the rehab. Now it's time to just go out there and let it go.'"
Two years ago, Gonzalez had surgery similar to the procedure Kemp underwent last October to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage in his left shoulder. Gonzalez has talked to Kemp about what to expect along the way in his recovery.
But Gonzalez isn't the only one who noticed Kemp's reluctance to swing with the same authority and trust that his shoulder is fully recovered.
"I talked to Matt in the weight room about that today," Manager Don Mattingly said Friday morning. "I still think it's in the back of his mind a little bit. He has to let it loose. That's going to come with the more at-bats he gets and doesn't feel anything, the more he feels fine the next day. Then he can just go out and play.
"He talked about not feeling athletic right now. He's been in that rehab mode, in a sense, since he had the hammy (hamstring injury last May) the first time last year. He had to rehab from that. Then he hurt it again, rehabbed that, played for a while, hurt his shoulder and was playing handicapped. Now he's rehabbing again. He's ready to get to a point 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 come to the park, get loose and just play."
Mattingly told Kemp about his experience coming back from injuries. At one point in his career, Mattingly said he would take weights on the road and do the workout for his back problems at the hotel before he went to the ballpark for that day's game.
"So when I got to the ballpark, I could just get loose and play," Mattingly said. "I'd done my back work and now I could just focus on playing."
Counting three at-bats against Team Mexico on Wednesday and a strikeout against San Francisco Giants left-hander Barry Zito before Friday afternoon's game was rained out, Kemp is hitless with four strikeouts in 12 at-bats in game action this spring. The highlights have been a pair of deep flyouts to right-center field.
"It's still in the back of my mind," Kemp said of his surgically repaired shoulder. "But you have to remember -- it's all about rhythm and I have, what, 24 days to find it before opening day. And even if I go into the first game and don't have it, I still won't be worried because I'll have 161 more games to find it.
"It's a long season. Trust me -- I'll find it before the season is over with."
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