LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wants to see Matt Kemp in the outfield, but he doesn't want to rush the center fielder back from a sprained left ankle before Kemp is ready.
"I want to get him back in the mix, but I want him to be sharp when he comes," Mattingly said. "I want to give him the best chance to have success."
Mattingly hopes Kemp, on the disabled list for the third time this season, could begin a rehab assignment before Minor League seasons end the first week of September. But if Kemp is not ready by then, Mattingly said Kemp could get at-bats in the Arizona instructional league.
"I want him to be ready to play," Mattingly said. "So hopefully he gets a few Minor League games coming."
Kemp took early batting practice on the field Sunday afternoon, ran and made turns in the outfield at Dodger Stadium.
"It sounds like he had a good day today," Mattingly said. "He ran really well today."
Kemp said he doesn't feel any pain in his ankle. He still needs to run the bases, which could happen in the next couple of days if all goes well, and that is one of the final hurdles before a rehab assignment.
"I've still got some work to do," Kemp said. "I'm just getting my legs stronger. I haven't gotten to run a lot. So I'm just getting stronger."
Kemp has missed 68 games this season and played 62.
"I wish I could be out there with those guys, but I'm working hard to get back so I can enjoy some of the things that are going on on the field," he said.
Beckett has high praise for dominant Kershaw
LOS ANGELES -- Josh Beckett gained a new appreciation for his fellow Dodgers starting pitchers as he watched the club on television while recovering from surgery.
Beckett, who underwent a procedure to remove a rib that was pressing a nerve and causing numbness in his pitching hand, said he picked up different things watching on TV rather than from the dugout. Beckett had high praise Sunday for Clayton Kershaw, who is 5-2 with a 1.35 ERA in eight starts since Beckett went under the knife July 10.
"I tell everybody that as good as you think he is, he is better than that," Beckett said. "And that's hard to do, because everybody thinks he's really good."
Kershaw leads the Major Leagues with a 1.72 ERA and is a leading candidate to win the National League Cy Young Award for the second time.
"I know he hasn't been doing it that long, but he could possibly be the best pitcher ever -- he's that good," Beckett said. "Coming over here last year, I knew he was good. But he exceeded my expectations."
As for Beckett, he said he's ahead of schedule in his rehab process. The right-hander plans to start a throwing program Wednesday in Dallas. From there, he hopes to throw off a mound at least three times, take a break and then resume his normal offseason routine in December.
"I'm pretty excited about where I'm at," Beckett said. "I don't think anyone expected me to be where I'm at right now. Everything is going good. I think we'll know more when I start throwing bullpens."
Beckett said he could have started his throwing program last week, but had to push things back because his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter. He returned to the Dodgers' clubhouse Friday for the first time since surgery.
"It was like Christmas coming in here two days ago and seeing all the guys," Beckett said.
Ellis behind plate for rare start catching Capuano
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers rookie catcher Tim Federowicz has typically been behind the plate when left-hander Chris Capuano is on the mound, but A.J. Ellis got the start Sunday against the Red Sox.
Federowicz had caught each of Capuano's past 11 starts entering Sunday. Capuano was 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA in that span, and the Dodgers were 9-2. But Capuano has allowed 13 earned runs over his past three outings.
"Cap has been OK the last couple times out and I just wanted to kind of change the dynamic just a little bit," said manager Don Mattingly.
Andre Ethier was also out of the lineup Sunday against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy. Ethier is 5-for-33 (.152) with 10 strikeouts lifetime against Peavy.
Carl Crawford returned to the lineup Sunday after being held out for eight innings Saturday. Crawford is 4-for-12 (.333) lifetime against Peavy.
Mattingly mentioned his desire to give Ethier a breather Saturday, but waited until Sunday to take advantage of matchups and prevent Crawford and Ethier from sitting on the same day.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.