SAN DIEGO -- Joe Torre isn't buying the suggestion that Matt Kemp's slump is the result of general manager Ned Colletti's critical comments about the center fielder.
"You think this kid is soft?" Torre asked in response to a question about Kemp, who won Friday night's game with a two-run homer. "If Ned Colletti did something to put him in a slump, then the kid isn't as tough as I think."
Whether Colletti's comments extended a slump is open for conjecture, but Kemp was already in one -- which included his defense and baserunning -- or Colletti wouldn't have made the comments.
The timeline shows that on April 21, Kemp had his last home run and multiple-RBI game until Friday night. He was hitting .333 at the time. Kemp went 6-for-28 (.204) between April 21 and when he learned of Colletti's comments before the April 28 game in New York. Kemp was 2-for-12 his next three games, and is hitting .292 since, although he had only two RBIs in May until Friday night.
Defensively, he was tentative in the outfield before the comments and misplayed a ball that cost Clayton Kershaw two runs, and the Dodgers a loss, on April 29. He was caught stealing on five of his seven attempts before the comments, two of six since.
Friday night, Kemp also singled sharply to center, walked, stole a base and scored two runs.
"He's staying in the middle of the field, staying on the ball a little longer," said Torre. "I thought I saw it earlier, then it disappeared. If you watch from upstairs, it's when his front side stays in there longer.
"He's tried to be the same personality every day [since Colletti's comments]. 'I'm good, I'm good. I don't want to come out of the lineup.' He's just about the first one at the ballpark. He's certainly not licking his wounds."
Haeger goes five innings in rehab start
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers pitcher Charlie Haeger made an injury rehabilitation start for Class A Inland Empire on Saturday night, allowing two runs on four hits in five innings.
Haeger, reunited with knuckleball mentor Charlie Hough, the 66ers' pitching coach, walked two, struck out two and was the losing pitcher.
Haeger was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 9 with what was announced as plantar fasciitis. Because he is out of options, he cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without clearing waivers and the risk of being claimed by another team.
At the time he went on the disabled list, Haeger was 0-4 with an 8.59 ERA and had just been unable to retire any of five batters in a May 8 start against Colorado.
Meanwhile, disabled Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla continues to play a firm catch on flat ground with no further discomfort from the inflamed radial nerve that sent him to the sidelines, but he has yet to throw off a mound.
He will need several bullpen sessions and at least three Minor League rehab starts before he returns, which manager Joe Torre said remains some time in July.
Kuo working way into late-inning role for LA
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre won't officially declare that Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill have swapped lefty relief roles, but it looks like it.
Sherrill came into this season as Torre's eighth-inning setup man for closer Jonathan Broxton, but has wobbled since the start of Spring Training. Kuo, once he returned from the disabled list, has been used earlier in games.
On Friday night, it was the opposite. Sherrill came on in the fifth inning to face San Diego lefty slugger Adrian Gonzalez, while Kuo came on to strike out Gonzalez to end the seventh inning and pitched the eighth.
"A lot of it will be matchups," said Torre. "I did something different [with Kuo], he finished one inning and pitched the next, but he's been feeling really good, he hasn't been abused. I got away with it, you could say."
Kuo was charged with two earned runs in his first appearance April 22. In seven appearances since, he hasn't allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings with two hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. His ERA is 2.70. Sherrill's ERA is 7.30. Torre said if Sherrill pitched the fifth and sixth innings all year "it wouldn't upset him."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.