SAN DIEGO — Based on his conversations with the Dodgers’ new owners, General Manager Ned Colletti expects to have more financial flexibility at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline than he’s had in recent years.
“If we have a chance to improve our club, they’re open-minded to doing it and everything that it entails,” Colletti said.
That could mean making significant additions to the payroll. President Stan Kasten recently acknowledged the Dodgers “don’t have the warehouse of prospects we wish we had.” Without prospects to trade, the Dodgers probably won’t be able to make any meaningful acquisitions unless they agree to inherit millions of dollars in salaries from non-contenders looking to shed payroll.
Under former owner Frank McCourt, the Dodgers were budget-conscious at trade deadlines. When they acquired Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake in 2008, they got the players’ former teams to pay their remaining salaries by parting with top prospects.
Colletti has spoken to the new owners about signing outfielder Andre Ethier to a contract extension.
“I’m not going to get into where it is, but we’ve discussed it,” Colletti said.
Colletti said he has been pleased by the early-season form of the Dodgers, who entered Thursday’s game against the San Diego Padres with the best record in baseball.
“We’re going to have to capitalize on mistakes and we’re going to have to keep our errors to a minimum,” he said. “By and large, through however many games we’ve played, we’ve done that more times than not. … We haven’t made a lot of mistakes that haven’t cost us games.”
Colletti said of the team’s growing disabled list, which now includes outfielder Matt Kemp: “Every team goes through it. The teams that end up winning divisions are typically the ones that go through it the best.”
He pointed to how the San Francisco Giants are without All-Stars Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. The Arizona Diamondbacks are waiting for Stephen Drew, Daniel Hudson and Chris Young to return.
The struggles of 24-year-old shortstop and leadoff hitter Dee Gordon were expected, Colletti said. Gordon was hitting .212 through Wednesday.
“We knew that there was an experience curve and a learning curve he would have to catch up with,” Colletti said. “I think we hold out hope every day that this is the day he gets on two or three times, steals a couple bases, starts to relax and starts to play like he did last September.”
Colletti compared Gordon to Kemp, another high-ceiling former basketball player who was still learning fundamental aspects of the game when he became an everyday player.
“You’re going to have to live with the growing pains,” he said. “In Matt’s case, look how it turned out.”
Colletti wouldn’t say how long the Dodgers would wait for Gordon to start producing before they make a change.
Colletti said he doesn’t know what to make of first baseman James Loney’s slow start. Loney, who didn’t hit for most of last season, went into Thursday batting .234.
“In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the first half last year,” Colletti said. “The defense has been stellar. There’s no doubt the defense has been as good as you would ever want out of the position.”
Kemp stretched with the team and took part in pregame throwing drills. … Manager Don Mattingly described Juan Rivera’s recovery from a torn hamstring tendon as “a best-case scenario,” a sign the left fielder might avoid surgery. Rivera will be reevaluated next week. … The Padres waived second baseman Orlando Hudson. The former Dodger was hitting .211 in 35 games.