LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One quick glimpse at Matt Kemp serves as sufficient evidence of the commitment he made this offseason to get into better shape and silence those who criticized the extra weight he carried last year.
"He looks great," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "When I saw him, I said, 'You look like you did when you played center field for the Dodgers. He's in great shape."
Approximately 15 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season, Kemp arrived at Spring Training with a still solid frame, similar to the one he possessed when he established himself as an MVP candidate with the Dodgers. Age and multiple leg ailments have distanced him from those days when he was a legitimate stolen-base threat.
But as Kemp proved, while totaling 35 homers last year and producing an .855 OPS in the 56 games played after being traded by the Padres to the Braves, he still has the potential to provide significant value at the plate.
"When he came over here from San Diego, you saw flashes of what he once was," Braves pitcher R.A. Dickey said. "I think everybody enjoyed it. I know he enjoyed it. So, there's no reason to think he can't return to that level."
Kemp certainly appeared to be encouraged and possibly slightly rejuvenated by the experience he had while spending the final two months of last season in Atlanta. He's among the Braves who believe it's time to stop considering this to be a team that is still in a rebuilding stage.
Snitker attempted to deliver that message to the players on Wednesday afternoon when he told them, "We're not here to improve, we're here to win."
"[The Nationals and Mets] are really good," Kemp said in reference to the NL East race. "They have a lot of well-known guys and a lot of guys who can play baseball. It's not going to be an easy division to win, but I think it's something that's possible. We've just got to work hard and win baseball games."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.