Matt Kemp aiming to return to the Dodgers’ starting lineup for first game after All-Star break

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Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp has been on the shelf for close to five weeks with a left hamstring strain that dates back to the middle of May. But he is making progress and already charting his return.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Kemp is planning to embark on a minor league rehab assignment next week and hopes to rejoin the Dodgers for their first scheduled game after the All-Star break (July 13 against the Padres).

Kemp will compete in the Home Run Derby on July 9 at Kauffman Stadium but will skip the All-Star Game.

The 27-year-old is batting .355/.444/.719 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI in 36 games played this season. The Dodgers have taken a sharp dip in the standings while he’s been sidelined and currently trail the Giants by one game in the National League West.

Kendrys Morales pitched a scoreless inning Sunday

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Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.

Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.

Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.

On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.