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Kemp in good position to make Dodgers' roster

Veteran outfielder could be No. 3 hitter with Turner out
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said to not jump to any conclusions just because Matt Kemp was batting in Justin Turner's third spot in Thursday night's lineup against the Angels.

Roberts issued no such warnings about assuming Kemp has made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster with an impressive Spring Training, his right-handed power bat all the more vital in the middle of the order with the loss of Turner for 1-2 months with a fractured wrist.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said to not jump to any conclusions just because Matt Kemp was batting in Justin Turner's third spot in Thursday night's lineup against the Angels.

Roberts issued no such warnings about assuming Kemp has made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster with an impressive Spring Training, his right-handed power bat all the more vital in the middle of the order with the loss of Turner for 1-2 months with a fractured wrist.

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"It feels real," said Kemp, the unlikeliest of offseason acquisitions in a salary swap. "I'm happy it's real and excited I get to go to L.A. Saturday."

Kemp didn't say he's been promised a spot on the club. But he's still here and starting in Cactus League games, so draw your own conclusions. Going into Thursday night's game, he was hitting .302 with four homers and a .968 OPS.

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"I don't know how it's going to go down," Kemp said. "We've all had good talks and I know what they expect of me, and I'm going to give them everything I've got."

Video: LAD@CLE: Kemp laces a hard-hit double to right-center

Presumably, the plan after acquiring Kemp from the Braves was to flip him and a big chunk of the $43.5 million he is owed over the next two seasons, but the Dodgers found no takers. Meanwhile, having shed 40 pounds in the winter, Kemp surprised management with adequate defense in left field and a bat that still can punish mistakes.

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"I think I had a good Spring Training," Kemp said. "I feel really good, moving around good. It's easier to hit in a lineup that's so deep. One after another, guys backing up each other. It's a dangerous lineup, no matter how you write it. Super dangerous."

On defense, Kemp said he embraces the analytics the Dodgers use to position fielders. He admires the maturity of the younger Dodgers players, who benefit from the advances in the game made in recent years.

"The guys on my side like to run, and I don't have to run as much," Kemp said. "It feels good to be able to move around and be mobile, and my hips are feeling good. I'm happy where I'm at.

"There's a lot more going on now, as far as positioning and things that make you a lot better, that we didn't have when we were coming up, and they're taking advantage of it. Even the coaches are super hands-on. We communicate with scouting reports, and I love that, they're very detailed. You might think those things don't help you, but they do."

Video: ARI@LAD: Kemp jacks a two-run shot to left-center

Kemp needs no such scouting report for next Thursday, when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound and the Dodgers take their home field on Opening Day.

"My mom's more excited than anything," Kemp said. "She loves Dodger Stadium. Going to be fun to see a lot of familiar faces. They've been welcoming me here, I know it's going to be even better in Dodger Stadium. There's nothing like Opening Day in Dodger Stadium. You can't really describe it. There's a lot going on. Doves and stuff flying all around. They put a lot on it."

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp