Dodgers start season with new manager in Mattingly
LOS ANGELES (AP) - 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 club.”
The biggest unanswered question remains the team's ownership.
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 bigger problems.”
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 special.”
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 relate 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 Scott Elbert.
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 Giants.
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 game.”
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.
- Padres ace Mat Latos to go on 15-day disabled list
- Dodgers start season with new manager in Mattingly
- Wilson unlikely to be with Giants on opening day
- Rays still feel like team to beat in AL East
- Former girlfriend Bell tells of Bonds' steroid use
- Blue Jays counting on another big year by Bautista
- Spring Training Capsules
- Winning 100 games realistic for loaded Red Sox
- McNamee says players know what they put in bodies
- Dodgers start season with new manager
- Pads get INF Gonzalez from Nats for Davis
- Yankees head into season underdogs in AL East
- Rays-Yankees game canceled by rain
- Feliciano expects to be out 2 weeks
- RH Galarraga chosen to fill out Arizona rotation
- New manager, same expectations for Braves
- AL champion Rangers facing hurdles in repeat bid
- Money matters: Reyes, Mets set for rocky season?
- Cardinals look for bounceback year
- Cubs count on Quade, 2 former Rays
- Giants gear up hoping to make another playoff run
- Twins trade pitching prospect to Braves
- Nationals-Braves canceled because of rain
- PITCHING COMPARISON
- Mets' Beltran set to play first game since March 6
- Ex-mistress: Bonds blamed steroids for injury
- Bonds' ex-mistress testifies at perjury trial
- Royals acquire Treanor from Rangers
- This Date In Baseball
- Baseball Calendar