Colletti Points to Dodgers Attiude

Ned Colletti

When asked what characteristics the new Dodgers coaching staff, under new manager Don Mattingly, needs to possess, general manager Ned Colletti looked back at spring training for when the 2010 season began to go wrong.

"I don't know who you lay it on, I think you lay it on everybody," Colletti said. "I thought in the spring we should have been crisper. I don't know if it was because we played a longer season (in 2009) or if people thought it would be easy. Overall, we need more crispness to what we do. More intensity. More relentless to what we're trying to accomplish."

The Dodgers didn't accomplish much in 2010. They learned talent and prior playoff experience doesn't guarantee victories or more playoff berths. A talented young core group of position players either leveled off or went backward, especially in the second half.

On one hand, the Dodgers only have to make a few changes. They need three starting pitchers (since three are free agents), an outfielder and a bullpen arm or two.

On the other hand, they could make a bunch of changes. They can look at first base, third base, catcher and left field as areas where they can get more offense, especially power. The entire bullpen, with the exception of Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen, can be overhauled entirely. The bench needs work. And no matter what, they must address the rotation.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the ongoing divorce saga surrounding ownership, and what financial impact that has on player acquisition.

Colletti's budget dropped from around $120 million in 2008 to about $90 million in 2010. He isn't sure what the number will be in 2011, but he said, "We'll have a budget that will allow us to be competitive."

The coaching staff will change. Bench coach Bob Schaefer said he won't be back. Somebody needs to replace Mattingly as hitting coach, and getting a more youthful presence is needed.

Colletti stressed that he still believes in the core of players because it was successful in 2008 and 2009. He won't be looking to get rid of those players, per se, but he'll be a lot more open-minded about trading them now.

"Until you've experienced where you've slipped or leveled off, you don't know how to handle it," Colletti said. "It will be interesting to see how they prepare this offseason and how they come into camp."

Moreover, it sure sounds as if Colletti is stressing an attitude adjustment for everybody involved -- coaches, players and his front office. Whatever players he keeps, and whatever players he adds, expect them to be known for an intense style.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1.20 -- Final ERA for LHP Hong-Chih Kuo, the lowest in the 127-year franchise history of the Dodgers. Kuo pitched a scoreless inning Oct. 3 to finish at 1.200 and break the record of 1.202 set by Eric Gagne in 2003. Kuo considered it an honor because Gagne was his idol and an inspiration coming up as a younger pitcher.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm ready to stop playing. You can probably find a lot of people who will tell you I have overstayed my welcome at the major league level anyway. It has gotten to the point where not only do I need to get back to my family, because my kids are at an age where they probably won't want me around in a couple of years, but also, quite frankly, I just don't feel like I can play on a consistent basis. That has nothing to do with the back surgery, because I actually started feeling that way in spring training. But I wasn't going to walk away, because I had a contract." -- C Brad Ausmus, on his retirement as a player.

NOTES, QUOTES
--LHP Ted Lilly bypassed free agency and agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with the Dodgers that includes a no-trade clause the first two years. Lilly also will get a $3.5 million signing bonus that will be paid over the life of the contract.

--Owner Frank McCourt planned to resume handling the team's day-to-day operations after Dennis Mannion was removed as president. Mannion had been with the team since 2007. No reason was given for his departure.

--SS Rafael Furcal won't play winter ball this offseason to allow his body to rest and get healthy for next season. Furcal was limited to 97 games due to hamstring and back injuries, and he missed almost all of the 2008 season with a back injury that required surgery. Furcal, who will be 33 next year, has one year left on his contract.

--CF Matt Kemp, a lightning rod for criticism all year, said he would take about two weeks off to rest, then began his offseason workouts to get ready for 2011. While many Dodgers fans lost patience with Kemp, management is unlikely to trade him. Kemp knows the fans were down on him, and he has talked about making up for it with a 40-homer, 40-steal campaign in 2011.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda isn't leaving for Japan instantly. Since his daughters attend American schools, he's staying in the United States for the time being. Kuroda will decide in October or November if he'll remain in the United States or return to Japan to pitch. Coming off his best year and with a thin free-agent pitching market, Kuroda, 35, is likely to get another two- to three-year contract.

--3B Casey Blake, due to make $5.25 million in the final year of his contract, won't get the 509 at-bats he had in 2010. GM Ned Colletti said, "A little less (playing time) would be beneficial, but not drastically." Blake is coming off a career-worst year in which he hit .248 with a .320 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage. He knows that he could get transitioned to a platoon or reserve role next year.

--OF Jerry Sands played some first base this year, and he'll be tried at third base in the Arizona Fall League. He hit 35 home runs between low Class A Great Lakes and Class AA Chattanooga. It's no coincidence he'll be tested at the corner-infield positions, as the Dodgers are lacking power there. Sands probably won't be ready for major league pitching on Opening Day, but he could be a midseason arrival.

ROSTER REPORT
The Dodgers need a starting outfielder, three starting pitchers and a catcher for sure. The days of throwing money at the best free agents appear to be over. There's very little help at the upper levels of the minor leagues ready to contribute. As a result, GM Ned Colletti will need to be very creative. In order to fill the open roster spots, he might have to make trades that create other holes.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Dodgers could use a right-handed power bat in the middle of the order, preferably in left field. That's what Manny Ramirez was supposed to be. But those hitters are rare and expensive, which makes it unlikely they will find one. Even so, all the runs won't matter if there's no pitching. Three-fifths of the rotation consists of free agents, so that area needs to be addressed. The bullpen needs an overhaul. Catcher, first base and third base need more production.

FREE AGENTS: RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Vicente Padilla, RHP Jeff Weaver, C Rod Barajas, C Brad Ausmus, OF Reed Johnson, OF Scott Podsednik ($2 million mutual option), OF Jay Gibbons.

Ausmus will retire. Johnson is unlikely to return. Gibbons and Barajas would be cheap to bring back and are solid role players. Podsednik's heel injury should be healed, and he wants to return, but the Dodgers need more power in their outfield. Weaver wants to play one more season, and while he was more injury-prone and inconsistent this year, he's a cheap bullpen arm. The real questions are Kuroda and Padilla. Both had good years and are needed, but they could make more money elsewhere.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 1B James Loney, 2B Ryan Theriot, C Russell Martin, RHP Chad Billingsley, LHP George Sherrill, LHP Hong-Chih Kuo.

Sherrill is a likely non-tender, based on a terrible year and the $4.5 million he made last year. Martin is a possible non-tender, based on a hip injury, a bad year and the $5.05 million he made. Theriot has a slight chance of getting non-tendered.

IN LIMBO: RHP Jonathan Broxton, 3B Casey Blake, 1B James Loney, RHP Ronald Belisario.

New manager Don Mattingly said he would go into spring training with Broxton his closer, despite Broxton's terrible final three months. Broxton's salary jumps to $7 million in 2011, and a chance of scenery could do him well, but the Dodgers would have trouble getting value for him. Loney is always in limbo because he doesn't hit for the power needed (10 home runs last year) at first base. Blake looked his age (36) in 2010, and all signs point to him transitioning to a platoon or reserve role. Belisario wasn't as effective in 2010 and twice was on the restricted list (the second time reportedly for substance abuse).

MEDICAL WATCH:
--C Russell Martin (right hip labral tear) won't need surgery, but the timetable for the rehab was uncertain. As of early October, he was healing fine, but it will be months before it's known if he can squat or handle the physical demands of catching.

--1B John Lindsey (broken left hand) will need surgery to insert a pin. He probably won't be able to play winter ball, but he should be ready for spring training.

--OF Scott Podsednik (plantar fasciitis in left foot) should be healed in time for spring training.

--RHP Travis Schlichting (right shoulder pain) should be ready in time for spring training.

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