Little says a healthy club is key in 2006

Little says a healthy club is key in 2006

New Dodgers manager Grady Little fielded questions from fans during an online chat Thursday. Little discussed the challenges facing the team next season, like keeping healthy players on the field, and the approach he'll take managing the Dodgers in 2006.

vicenteromo: Mr. Little, welcome to the Dodgers. Can you tell us about your coaching staff? We know very little about Dave Jauss and Rich Donnelly.

Grady Little: Jauss has been with the Boston Red Sox for nine or 10 years and he was a coach there when I was coaching for Jimy Williams. Most recently, he's been the advanced scout with the Red Sox and he was a vital part of them winning the World Series. He's a very knowledgeable person about the game of baseball and he plays to win. Donnelly is probably known best for his time with Jim Leyland with the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies. He's a very organized person. He's got a lot of experience in the National League. His knowledge of the league and his ability to get along with people is great.

Pat_Falcone: Will we hit, run, steal and bunt a lot more?

Little: I manage a ballclub according to the talent on the field and we try to use good common sense with our judgments on when to do certain things. A lot of times, a stolen base is as effective as a hit and run, so sometimes we'll do that. I do like to hit and run if the personnel are the right people in order. I like action.

bigcheleone: Are the Dodgers trying to sign catcher Benjie Molina?

Little: Molina is still out there and the Dodger fans just have to take our word for it that Ned Colletti is going to do the very best that he can do to make this team as good as it can be. We're awfully proud of the young catchers we do have and we have high hopes for the young kids.

Base_Ball_2: In your opinion, what was the best acquisition of this offseason?

Little: It would be hard to pinpoint the best one until we see the results, but I'll tell you that we're awfully proud of the people we got for the infield and the pitching staff, and of course Kenny Lofton in center field. I think I'll wait until October to answer that more accurately.

andrewstebbins: What number do you plan on wearing in 2006?

Little: I will wear No. 9. That's the number that I wanted to wear in Boston but for some reason, they wouldn't let me.

Base_Ball_4: What is the team going to do about starting pitching?

Little: We've got some good people to pick from and we're going to pick the best five we have. I think the top of the pitching lineup pretty much speaks for itself with Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Odalis Perez. We've got two more spots there for talented people like Brett Tomko, and other good people to pick from for that last spot.

laughtrack: For the Dodgers to go far, what will be your strategy in winning more games by two runs or less? Small ball or wait for the big inning?

Little: It's going to all boil down to the personnel that we have on the field at the time. It's going to boil down to the health of Eric Gagne and how effective Danys Baez is for us late in the ballgame. That will have a lot to do with it.

andrewstebbins: Grady, who is your favorite Dodger from years past?

Little: I'm kind of split between Roy Campanella and Sandy Koufax. I was always a fan of both of these guys a little more than the rest of them. Roy because he was the catcher and Sandy Koufax just because he was Sandy Koufax.

Joe_Gutierrez: Do you have an idea who the Opening Day pitcher will be?

Little: Well, if we were nailed to the wall and had to make a decision, I would say it would be Lowe. But fortunately, the season doesn't start for three more months.

Base_Ball_4: What position will Cesar Izturis play when he returns?

Little: We just look forward to him being able to return, at this moment in time, and hopefully he'll be receptive to whatever helps us be a better ballclub. Right now, our number one concern is just making sure he gets healthy.

skydecks: Personally, what do you feel will be your biggest challenge in managing the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006?

Little: I think the biggest challenge will be to win as many games as we can on a daily basis and keep the players healthy. We feel like if we can keep them on the field and playing, we have more than enough talent to be at the top of the pack.

andrewstebbins: Mr. Little, when you were growing up, who was your baseball idol and what was your favorite team?

Little: When I first started recognizing baseball on television it was the mid '50s and at that time, I have to tell you, I was a New York Yankees fan because of Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

andrewstebbins: Grady, how do you want to run this club?

Little: Well, I'm a firm believer in everyone being as relaxed as they can be because they can be more productive in their jobs. That's the way we're going to run things. This team's going to have a lot of fun and there are no exceptions.

swampcooler: You obviously have a great passion and love for the game. Who were the major influences that instilled such a great attitude and who did you grow up rooting for when you were a young man?

Little: I think it was probably Bobby Cox once I got to play in the Minor Leagues. I was playing in the Yankees system and I saw a guy that wasn't that much older than me, to tell you the truth, as my manager in Double-A. I saw him progress and I was able to work with him for 10 years in the Braves organization and have grown to respect him even more. I'd have to say he was the one.

Base_Ball_2: With the departure of Elmer Dessens, I read that Edwin Jackson and D.J. Houlton were going to be moved from the starting rotation to long relief. Now that Jackson has been traded, who do you anticipate to be the primary long reliever?

Little: I think we have several candidates in that category and to start naming them wouldn't be fair because there are also some that are in competition for a starting job.

Pat_Falcone: Where will they try Joel Guzman, in the outfield or at first base?

Little: He's going to come to Spring Training with the idea of a position change in mind, and the talk of first base and the outfield has been brought up. He's certainly capable of playing both positions. With a guy that swings the bat the way they say he does, I think we'll definitely try to find him a place to play.

grandpabill: How is Gagne coming along and will 2006 be a more healthy year?

Little: We certainly hope so. From what we're hearing from him and the Dodgers, there's all indications that he'll be 100 percent by the time Spring Training is over, for sure, and that's all we know at this time.

robinfax: Nomar Garciaparra has MVP ability. Is he 100 percent ready to go?

Little: He's 100 percent physically ready to go and about 200 percent mentally ready to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

fawnkyjunk: Have you gotten a chance to see the kids down on the farm yet?

Little: No, I haven't. But I look forward to that in Spring Training.

Eric_Mendez: How much say have you had in the moves the club has made since you've been manager?

Little: I don't know a percentage, but I do know that before Ned has made any moves, he gets a pretty thorough investigation from as many people who might be able to tell him something. He leaves no stone unturned when he's looking to make a move.

spottedowl: How important is it to have a set number of lefties in the bullpen, either one or two? Or are you looking to bring the best relievers with the club no matter which way they pitch?

Little: I'll tell you what, I'm not a firm believer that you need to have a left-handed pitcher in any situation just because he's left-handed. So many times, you have a better arm in the bullpen but some managers try to protect themselves by bringing in the lefty to face the lefty, even if it's not the right move. I'm not a manager that's going to go on that percentage. And the same thing goes for our left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers.

garrett_m: How are Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent recovering from their surgeries? Are they going to be ready for the start of the season?

Little: We have no questions that they'll both be ready. I talked to Jeff last night on the phone and he's doing outstanding. He's expecting to get the wrappings off today or tomorrow. He hasn't really tested it yet, but he feels confident that he'll be ready to go. I haven't talked to Rafael in a little bit, but he said he'd be there early to work with pitchers and catchers.

calidude36: How do you feel about Nomar playing in the World Baseball Classic knowing his past groin injuries?

Little: It's a good thing for Nomar. I'm proud for him and I think that we're going to be concerned with anyone who has past injuries in their history, but he could hurt his groin taking ground balls in Vero Beach just as easily. He will be active and will be playing in games and he feels 100 percent physically fit, so there you go. We're certainly not thinking about him getting hurt.

dodgerfan19: Who do you think will rise to become a leader in the clubhouse?

Little: That'll probably be the guy with the highest batting average or the pitcher with the most wins! That's a tough question for me to answer now, but it's something we'll get a feel for once we get there and get to working.

Pat_D: Have you spoken to Baez about his role? Is he more accepting than previously reported?

Little: I have spoken to him a couple times and this kid just wants a chance to win and that's what drives him right now. He knows that this is an important year for him in whatever job he's in on our ballclub. He just wants to do whatever he can to do help us win.

Base_Ball_2: Who is your favorite Major League Baseball player?

Little: By the time the end of Spring Training comes around, I'll have 25 favorites and they'll be wearing blue.

vicenteromo: What does Bill Mueller bring to the Dodgers?

Little: Mueller brings a professional baseball player to the clubhouse. That's all he lives for -- to play baseball. Once people watch him on a daily basis, they're going to love him. You never know he's there until the game starts and then you love watching him. You wish you had 25 of him to start the season.

phyperion: How is Jayson Werth progressing? Will he be starting in left this season or someone else like Jason Repko?

Little: He's progressing fine. I don't really know his ETA in terms of being ready to play in a game, but hopefully it'll be toward the end of Spring Training.

dodgerho: Have you learned to hate the Giants yet?

Little: No, not just yet. They're just like everybody else that we're going to play against. I don't hate them, I just want to beat them every time we play them.

hbdodger: Where does this team stack up in the National League West, as well as the NL as a whole?

Little: Heck, I don't know. You've got to talk to somebody higher up than me to answer that accurately now. But if we can keep everybody on the field, we like our chances.

Joe_Gutierrez: Do you see J.D. Drew ready to go come Opening Day?

Little: At this point in time, I don't see anything that would keep him from playing Opening Day. We're going to take it real easy with him in Spring Training because we're not trying to win the Grapefruit League. We're going to ease him into it to make sure he's ready to go on Opening Day.

Alonzo_Lopez: What is it about the Dodgers you like the most?

Little: I like everyone out there that works around that stadium, from the ownership to the people working down on the field. The people, all they want to do is be a part of a winning organization again and that's all we want to be.

Little: Thank you all for being a part of the chat today. We're really looking forward to Spring Training and we hope to see you all in Vero Beach or Dodger Stadium soon.