GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Kemp is back."Like I never left," Kemp said in his return to the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch clubhouse for the first time since 2014."I'm just as surprised as you. My agent called me, said I'd been traded. I asked where? He started laughing. He said Dodgers. I
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Kemp is back.
"Like I never left," Kemp said in his return to the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch clubhouse for the first time since 2014.
"I'm just as surprised as you. My agent called me, said I'd been traded. I asked where? He started laughing. He said Dodgers. I said, 'Not lying?' He said, 'For real.' I love being back. This is where I grew up. It was fun watching them play and get to a World Series. That's what I want to do."
Acquired in a salary swap from Atlanta, Kemp said he's matured. He's improved his physical conditioning, having lost 40 pounds, remains a potent power hitter and said he will surprise doubters of his outfield defense. He said he's learned how to manage his balky ankle and said 30 home runs and 20 steals are doable at age 33.
"I've still got a lot of baseball in me," said Kemp. "I can help this team win. Feel strong, ready to go. I'm older, but I've got a lot to offer, a lot of knowledge. Nobody really knows what their role is, but I'm here to win. I know I can be in this lineup, can help us win, prove to everybody I can still play defense. We all got something to prove every year. It's a fresh start. Why not do it back where I started?"
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Although Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor appear to be the starters in right field and center, Kemp said nobody's role is defined. Kemp has been welcomed back by the few veterans from his earlier stint. His locker is not far from Puig, who took Kemp's right-field job and hastened his departure when the pair had a falling out.
"People make up things," Kemp said. "If you ask the guys in this clubhouse I played with, I've never been a troublemaker. I don't know where that came from. I don't think the guys I played with have ever had a problem with me. People can make up what they want to think.
"If I have one regret from my first time here, it's that I resisted moving to left field. You live and learn. It's good to be back here. I got a whole new outlook on life. I'm having fun. I'm going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off."
Kemp also took his first media briefing as a chance to clarify a comment he made in Atlanta that offended Dodgers fans.
"Somebody had asked me how it was to be in Atlanta, and I said that Atlanta had always been known as a Braves city, a baseball town," he said. "L.A., when I first got here, it was all about Kobe [Bryant], [Shaquille O'Neal]. As the years went on and we started winning, it became a baseball town. Never said L.A. wasn't a baseball town. I would never disrespect the fans that helped me get to who I am. And that's the truth."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.