February 2009

Dodgers Spa–Glendale

Not exactly. But manager Joe Torre said one of the “big parts” of moving into an Arizona training facility for the Dodgers is having a year-round base where injured players can rehabilitate, instead of remaining with the Major League club and diverting the medical staff’s attention away from the active roster. Torre said it worked well for the Yankees with their year-round complex in Tampa, Fla. The Dodgers will have a full-time medical coordinator and therapist on site year-round at Camelback Ranch-Glendale.

Torre said the tentative plan is to have Jason Schmidt pitch in an intrasquad game Jan. 23. Torre said after watching Schmidt throw two bullpen sessions that he “appears 100 percent healthy.” Schmidt never pitched in a Spring game last year.

The club’s exhibition schedule has three days off, but Torre already decided that’s too many and is trying to add a game March 2.

Torre said he wants to limit Russell Martin to 140 games behind the plate this year, which won’t be much of a breather from last year, when he appeared in 149 games as catcher (138 starts). — Ken Gurnick

Penny vs. Bowa

Red Sox pitcher Brad Penny told Yahoo.com that Dodgers coach Larry Bowa talked about him to other players behind his back last year and Bowa responded with a colorful critique of Penny’s work ethic, body type and leadership skills.

Manager Joe Torre wanted no part of that volleying.

“Let’s get the games started so we have something else to talk about,” Torre said. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’ll write it in my next book.”

General manager Ned Colletti, who paid Penny $2 million to leave rather than $9.25 million to stay, was equally evasive.

“I choose not to respond,” said Colletti. “I choose to wish him well.” — Ken Gurnick

Dodgers, Ethier Avoid Arbitration

The Dodgers and outfielder Andre Ethier reached a settlement on a one-year contract for $3.1 million just before the scheduled start of an arbitration hearing Tuesday morning.

 

Ethier, who received $424,500 last year without the leverage of arbitration, was seeking $3.75 million this year with the club offering $2.65 million, with the midpoint at $3.2 million. He also received performance bonuses “at very high levels,” according to general manager Ned Colletti.

 

“Neither side was tremendously happy with it, the earmark of a successful agreement,” Colletti said.

 

The start of the hearing was delayed 45 minutes while the two sides negotiated the agreement. — Ken Gurnick

Schmidt Under the Radar

Jason Schmidt’s second bullpen session of the Spring Monday not only went without a problem, it went without a reporter’s question. A year ago, coming off his first shoulder operation, every move he made was scrutinized.

Schmidt, manager Joe Torre’s preferred pick for the fifth starter if he’s healthy, considers that a sign he is indeed healthy.

“It’s a good thing and it’s nice,” he said of being left alone.

Hiroki Kuroda looked healthy too in his first bullpen session Monday, throwing 30 pitches and saying afterward that it went better than expected. Skipping the World Baseball Classic was interpreted by some that his shoulder was acting up again, even though he’s insisted he’s fine.

Chad Billingsley had his second bullpen session Monday and reported no problem with the leg he broke in November. — Ken Gurnick

No Abreu, No Dunn, No Panic

How do the signings of Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn impact the Dodgers?

On the surface, two possible options are unavailable should the Dodgers not re-sign Manny Ramirez. Except that Abreu and Dunn never really were serious options for the Dodgers anyway. The Dodgers have been committed to playing out the Manny stalemate to its conclusion.

The signings of Abreu and Dunn might actually help the Dodgers, as two longshot destinations for Ramirez — Anaheim and Washington — apparently are out of play.

So, the Dodgers strategy remains the same: continue talks with Ramirez, hope that the Giants mean it when they say they won’t get into a bidding war for the outfielder, and hope he’ll eventually return to the Dodgers for one or two years.

And if he doesn’t?

The Dodgers plan to go into the season with the lineup they currently have and see if the kids can step up their game a notch.

And if they don’t?

Then in-season trades will be the tactic of choice, only this year they won’t necessarily wait for the July 31 deadline. General manager Ned Colletti expects rosters to be fluid this season like no other.

What are the Giants’ chances of stealing Ramirez?

It all depends on the Giants’ new managing partner Bill Neukom and whether Scott Boras, Ramirez’s agent, can convince Neukom to break from the market’s current downward trend and bid up Manny. One of the keys to Boras’ success over the years is appealing directly to ownership, and not just general managers.

His relationship with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, however, is on the chilly side since the Luke Hochevar drama. Another reason the Dodgers are determined not to bid against themselves for Ramirez.

As for bolstering the bullpen, the Dodgers are in touch with agents for Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, Jamie Wright and Joe Beimel.

 — Ken Gurnick