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Kemp receives praise, seen as more than platoon

MLB.com @kengurnick

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Dave Roberts didn't like the pregame question as much as his answer when asked if the Dodgers' lineup he fielded in Friday's 4-1 Cactus League loss to the D-backs was essentially what he has in mind for Opening Day against the Giants on March 29.

"I wrote it down and said, 'That's a good-looking lineup. I like our chances,'" Roberts said of a lineup that had Corey Seager at shortstop for the first time this spring and Matt Kemp (rumored to be heading out as soon as he was acquired in a salary swap) batting fifth, behind Cody Bellinger and ahead of Yasiel Puig.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Dave Roberts didn't like the pregame question as much as his answer when asked if the Dodgers' lineup he fielded in Friday's 4-1 Cactus League loss to the D-backs was essentially what he has in mind for Opening Day against the Giants on March 29.

"I wrote it down and said, 'That's a good-looking lineup. I like our chances,'" Roberts said of a lineup that had Corey Seager at shortstop for the first time this spring and Matt Kemp (rumored to be heading out as soon as he was acquired in a salary swap) batting fifth, behind Cody Bellinger and ahead of Yasiel Puig.

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Seager is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day after a late start because of right elbow rehab. But Kemp has altered the original game plan, in part because he has played well, in part because the club has been unable to move him and his two-year, $43.5 million obligation.

Roberts wouldn't bite when asked if Kemp is a lock for the roster, but he plugged the former All-Star into the club's potential Opening Day lineup as the starting left fielder. When asked if Kemp has shown he's more than a platoon player, Roberts offered words of praise.

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"Absolutely," Roberts said. "That's the thing with Matt. In '16, he dominated left-handers, and in '17, it was the other way. He's definitely not, nor has he ever been, a platoon guy. It's just more of the right situation using him and the other guys the right way. You look at that position, 650 plate appearances, it's our job to figure out how to divvy those things up.

"It's fair to say he's performed well and he came in shape, made a statement. When we acquired him, we didn't know what kind of shape he was in. We went off what he was last year, coming off an injury. The way he came in initially made a statement in itself. We're not going to make any decisions now. Obviously, we have time for that. He's getting a very good look."

The way Kemp reported to camp, having shed 40 pounds over the offseason, pleasantly surprised Roberts.

"To see what he's done in the batter's box and to see how he's assimilated with our guys, not surprised at all," Roberts said. "To his credit, he's showing what's made him a very good player for a long time. When you make the trade and see the seasons of guys coming back, we were already a very good team without Matt. But to have a former All-Star in as good a shape as he's been in years added to the mix, it only increases the level of competition around him, and that's good for all of us."

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kemp on being back with Dodgers

From the eye test, Andrew Toles is healthy after last year's right knee surgery and has outperformed the other contending left-handed-hitting outfielders, Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo. If the club keeps eight relievers and a four-man bench, as Roberts has indicated, there appears to be room for only one extra outfielder to go with utility man Enrique Hernandez, a second catcher and an extra infielder (Chase Utley).

"You've got to be very cautious evaluating off a Spring Training," Roberts said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp