Dodgers start season with new manager in Mattingly
The Dodgers head into a new season with a first-time manager and
a goal to return to the playoffs at the same time owner Frank
McCourt’s contentious divorce continues to cast a shadow over what
happens on the field.
Former Yankees star Don Mattingly replaces ex-manager Joe Torre
for a team that finished fourth in the NL West with an 80-82 record
last year and missed the postseason.
For the second straight winter, the Dodgers failed to add a big
bat to bolster an offense that was second-worst in baseball after
the All-Star break. But despite McCourt’s well-publicized financial
woes, the team committed more than $90 million in signings over the
winter, including three-year deals for pitcher Ted Lilly, who got
$33 million, and infielder Juan Uribe, who got $21 million after
leaving San Francisco.
”I feel guys are ready, guys get along, like each other,”
Mattingly said. ”So as we hit storms and what goes on during the
course of the season when you get tested, I feel good about our
The biggest unanswered question remains the team’s
In December, a judge threw out a 2004 marital property agreement
that gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers, clearing the
way for his ex-wife Jamie to seek half the team.
Over the winter, Frank McCourt tried to secure a $200 million
loan from Fox Television against the team’s cable TV rights.
However, commissioner Bud Selig rejected the deal.
”It doesn’t affect us at all,” Mattingly said about the
McCourts’ struggle for control of the team. ”They don’t throw it,
hit it or pitch it. If that is going to distract you, you’ve got
The Dodgers open the season Thursday at home against the Giants,
their bitter rivals who won the World Series a year ago, something
that doesn’t go over well with the Dodger faithful.
”Crazy things can happen in this division,” starting catcher
Rod Barajas said. ”If you are able to stay healthy and pitch,
that’s what is the key. We feel like we have some great arms in
here. With the guys we have here, we can do something
The Dodgers were 13-19 in spring training, as Mattingly
emphasized fundamentals. He was the team’s hitting coach the last
three seasons under Torre, who retired at age 70 after last season.
Mattingly turns 50 in April, giving the players a younger boss to
”Donnie is great,” pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. ”He’s
positive, never says a bad thing to anybody and I think he’s good
for this club.”
Besides Kershaw, the rotation is Chad Billingsley, Lilly and
Hiroki Kuroda. Fifth starter Jon Garland (oblique) will open the
season on the disabled list.
”We’ve got a lot of depth in our starting rotation and in our
bullpen,” Billingsley said. ”Every guy in our starting rotation,
any day they go out there they have a chance to throw nine innings.
They have a lot of confidence and we have a lot of experience on
this staff, which is good. And we have Clayton, who just keeps
getting better the more times he goes out there.”
Closer Jonathan Broxton anchors a bullpen comprised of Hong-Chih
Kuo, newcomer Matt Guerrier (who signed a three-year, $12 million
deal), Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Mike MacDougal and likely
Also starting the season on the DL are third baseman Casey Blake
(back), catcher Dioner Navarro (oblique) and pitcher Vicente
Padilla (arm surgery), who is set to return as a reliever.
While Blake is out, Ivan DeJesus Jr. figures to get most of the
playing time at second base, with Uribe playing third. He had
career highs of 24 home runs and 85 RBIs in his second season with
The rest of the infielders are James Loney, Rafael Furcal, Jamey
Carroll and Aaron Miles. Hector Gimenez is the likely backup to
Barajas behind the plate.
Joining veterans Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in the outfield are
Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Xavier Paul.
Ethier, Kemp and Loney are looking to improve their offensive
numbers after tailing off last season.
”We have a group here that is hungry to win and eager to get
back to the playoffs,” Loney said. ”It’s 162 games and you’re
going to have bad days, but it’s how you deal with those and how
you learn from your mistakes and how you help win the next
While Mattingly adjusts to being in charge and the McCourts
battle it out, many consider the best news going into the season to
be the return of 83-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully,
who will call his 62nd season with the team.