Matt Kemp returns to lineup vs. Reds

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers' everyday lineup in left field Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

Happenstance intervened to help the Dodgers avoid an awkward situation with one of their most highly paid players -- at least temporarily.

Kemp had been sitting on the bench for five straight games, replaced in center field by Andre Ethier.

The team put Carl Crawford on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle, vacating a starting outfield spot for Kemp.

According to sources, Kemp had not taken his demotion well, creating some tension in the clubhouse.

Wednesday is Kemp's first start in left field since he was a rookie in 2006.

"It's a little different, but I'm just excited to be able to go out and play," Kemp said. "The angles and slices and all that are different, but I'll figure it out. I just have to go get the ball wherever they slice them. I think I'm still a pretty good athlete, so I think I'll be OK."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday he was waiting for Kemp to tell him he was ready to play the new position before deciding on Crawford's replacement. He got that word Wednesday afternoon, not directly from Kemp, but via first-base coach Davey Lopes.

"I think it hurts us right now that Carl got hurt. He was doing well, but that's what happens in this game," Mattingly said. "Everybody's rolling, then A.J. [Ellis] comes down with a weird injury. Then, all of a sudden, Carl, one step and he goes down. You really never know what's going to happen. That's why you always want to stay prepared."

Kemp took balls in left field during batting practice for the third straight day. Wednesday's was Kemp's ninth career start in left field. To take Crawford's spot on the 25-man roster, the Dodgers recalled utility man Jamie Romak from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Romak, 28, is a former fourth-round pick who has been playing professional baseball since 2003 but had never reached the major leagues until Wednesday.

"I love to play baseball," Romak said. "So much of it is timing and opportunity."

Crawford turned his ankle severely while chasing down a double into the left-field corner Tuesday night and the Dodgers were at first convinced it could be a lengthy stay on the DL. But Mattingly said the team's trainer had a more optimistic perception of the injury after evaluating it Wednesday.

"He got it good, but he looked actually pretty good today," Mattingly said.