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Dodgers' Juan Uribe rewarded for his turnaround this season

Juan UribeMatt KempLos Angeles DodgersBaseballHouston RocketsDon Mattingly

SAN FRANCISCO — Juan Uribe batted fifth for the Dodgers on Saturday, one spot in front of two-time All-Star Andre Ethier. Uribe was starting for the 45th time, which was already three more times than he started all of last season.

Uribe's turnaround this season has been nothing short of remarkable. Now considered the team's everyday third baseman, Uribe is batting .275 with five home runs and 28 runs batted in, seven of which came Friday night.

Uribe has drawn the admiration of his teammates for how he dealt with and rebounded from his two previous seasons with the Dodgers, which were, frankly, awful. In the first two seasons of his three-year, $21-million deal, Uribe batted only .199.

"The thing about Uribe is that he's a great teammate," Matt Kemp said. "He didn't have such a good year last year, but he always comes into the locker room smiling, he's always positive and he works really hard. He's always laughing. He's always making people laugh. He never shows people how frustrated he really is. I feel a person has to be very strong to do that. It's hard not to show your emotions."

Told of what Kemp said, Uribe shrugged.

"I always try to be the same person," he said. "It's not anyone else's fault when I'm not playing well."

Uribe credited his comeback season to a more patient approach at the plate. He has drawn walks in 10.7% of his plate appearances, up from 7.3% last year and 5.8% in 2011. He acknowledged that changing his approach at this stage in his career was difficult.

As miserable as he was over the last two years, Uribe said he never thought this season might be his last.

"I've never thought of retirement," said Uribe, who turns 34 this month. "I knew I could still play. Just because you have one or two bad seasons doesn't mean you're finished."

Uribe pointed to his poor 2008 season with the Chicago White Sox. He revived his career with the San Francisco Giants over the next two seasons and parlayed that into a three-year deal with the Dodgers.

"I still enjoy this game," he said. "This is all I know how to do."

Kemp recovering

Kemp was out of the lineup as he was only a day removed from receiving a cortisone injection for the irritated AC joint in his surgically repaired left shoulder.

Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp could return as early as Sunday. The Dodgers remain confident that Kemp won't have to be placed on the disabled list.

"They don't feel like it had anything to do with the labrum," Mattingly said, referring to the team's medical staff.

Short hops

Carl Crawford was delighted to hear Dwight Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets. A Houston native, Crawford is a Rockets season-ticket holder. "I'm excited about it," Crawford said. "I feel we're a championship contender with him and [James] Harden."

Reliever Shawn Tolleson, who underwent back surgery in April, has resumed throwing. He could start a minor league rehabilitation assignment in the next couple of weeks.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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Juan UribeMatt KempLos Angeles DodgersBaseballHouston RocketsDon Mattingly
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