Mattingly ready to make imprint on Dodgers

Mattingly ready to make imprint on Dodgers

Mattingly ready to make imprint on Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly thinks that following in the footsteps of Joe Torre is a good thing.

"Joe never made it to the World Series as a player but he did as a manager, and I hope to do the same," said Mattingly, who embarks on his rookie season as Dodgers skipper after succeeding his mentor, who stepped down with three decades of experience as a manager.

With the support of a revamped coaching staff, Mattingly has promised a tougher Dodgers team than the one that folded under adversity in 2010, after being on the verge of a World Series in '08 and '09. General manager Ned Colletti hopes Mattingly is right, essentially challenging his young core to rebound from a generally crummy season.

Despite ownership uncertainty, Colletti rebuilt the starting rotation over the winter and took Juan Uribe from the World Series champion Giants to stabilize the infield and add a power threat to the lineup.

But with somewhat limited financial resources and the lack of ready prospects, Colletti did not completely rebuild, insisting that the Dodgers need the core of young hitters -- primarily Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney -- to step up their games after each regressed in 2010.

Spring Training
Previews
Pitchers & Catchers

Spring Training links
Spring Training tickets
Travel packages
Spring Training schedule

The same goes for Jonathan Broxton, an All-Star closer in July who lost his job to Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen in August.

Pitchers and catchers report

Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Full squad reports

Monday, Feb. 21.

First Spring Training game

Feb. 27 at Angels (ss), 12:05 p.m. PT and at Giants (ss), Feb. 27, 12:05 p.m.

Opening Day

March 31 vs. San Francisco, 5:05 p.m.

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Is Mattingly ready?
The Dodgers go from one of the most experienced and accomplished Major League managers to one that has never managed outside of the Arizona Fall League, unless you count that bungled mound visit last year. He has the advantage of having coached these players for three years and commands their respect from his resume and a demonstrated work ethic, but when the bell rings he'll be deciding playing time and strategy and open to second-guessing from the top deck to the dugout bench. A fast start wouldn't hurt.

2. Will the offense suffice?
GM Colletti spent most of his money on pitching and his main offensive acquisition was infielder Uribe, leaving left field for scrap-heap signings. As a result, there is no true cleanup hitter or logical No. 2 hitter for a team that last year ranked in the bottom half of the league in virtually every offensive category. Lacking the money and prospects to completely overhaul the offense, Colletti only tinkered and must count on the young core of Kemp, Ethier and Loney to rebound.

3. Are the Dodgers tough enough?
It's a question that Mattingly essentially raised as soon as the 2010 season ended and it even comes into play with the uncertainty of ownership. Whether it's injuries, attitude or a divorce that restricts player acquisition, it's easy for excuses to be raised, even in the clubhouse. The Dodgers last won a World Series with a team that was tougher than talented and used its underdog status as a rallying cry. This version has a manager that will insist on that, even if he isn't dealt a perfect roster.

2010 record

80-82, fourth in the NL West

Projected batting order

1. SS Rafael Furcal:
  .300 BA, .366 OBP, .460 SLG, 8 HR, 43 RBI in 2010
2. 2B Juan Uribe:
  .248 BA, .310 OBP, .440 SLG, 24 HR, 85 RBI in 2010
3. RF Andre Ethier:
  .292 BA, .364 OBP, .493 SLG, 23 HR, 82 RBI in 2010
4. CF Matt Kemp:
  .249 BA, .310 OBP, .450 SLG, 28 HR, 89 RBI in 2010
5. 1B James Loney:
  .267 BA, .329 OBP, .395 SLG, 10 HR, 88 RBI in 2010
6. 3B Casey Blake:
  .248 BA, .320 OBP, .407 SLG, 17 HR, 64 RBI in 2010
7. LF Marcus Thames:
  .288 BA, .350 OBP, .491 SLG, 19 HR, 61 RBI in 2010
8. C Rod Barajas:
  .240 BA, .284 OBP, .447 SLG, 17 HR, 47 RBI in 2010

Projected rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw, 13-10, 2.91 ERA in 2010
2. Chad Billingsley, 12-11, 3.57 ERA in 2010
3. Ted Lilly, 10-12, 3.62 ERA in 2010
4. Hiroki Kuroda, 11-13, 3.39 ERA in 2010
5. Jon Garland, 14-12, 3.47 ERA in 2010

Projected bullpen

Closer: Jonathan Broxton, 22/29 saves, 4.04 ERA in 2010
RH setup man: Matt Guerrier, 3.17 ERA in 2010
LH setup man: Hong-Chih Kuo, 1.20 ERA in 2010

The new guys

2B Uribe: It took a considerable ($21 million) three-year deal to entice him to leave the Giants for their hated rivals. For that to be a double win for the Dodgers, Uribe must at least repeat the 24-home run platform season production, because he's a lifetime .256 hitter with a .300 on-base percentage. He's versatile enough to slide from second base to third if necessary.

RHP Guerrier: Here's another acquisition the Dodgers decided was worth overpaying for with a three-year, $12 million deal in a no-confidence vote for Ronald Belisario. Management felt a durable veteran setup man was essential considering the bullpen's youth and last year's inconsistency. Guerrier has averaged 75 appearances over the last four years, but don't look for him in the ninth inning even if Broxton struggles.

RHP Garland: The Dodgers passed on the innings-eater a year ago and he threw 200 frames with 14 wins and a 3.47 for the Padres. He's a pro and he's being asked to be only the fifth starter in a deep rotation. He's thrown at least 191 innings every year since 2002, including 2009, when he was 3-2 with a 2.72 after the Dodgers acquired him from the D-backs.

OF Marcus Thames: He has enough right-handed power that the Dodgers were willing to ignore the shaky glove and hand him a platoon job in left field with Jay Gibbons, with a combined 30 homers conceivable. For most of his career, Thames has intrigued with his power, but he's struggled to land a full-time job.

C Dioner Navarro: Since last seen being shipped out to make room for Russell Martin, Navarro emerged as an All-Star catcher with Tampa Bay, then forgot how to hit, was left off the postseason roster and non-tendered. He makes one-third the salary of Rod Barajas, so the club is only expecting him to be a decent backup. But he was once considered a prime-time prospect and as a switch-hitter could win playing time from the 35-year-old Barajas. His batting average has fallen 100 points in the past two years.

OF Tony Gwynn: OK, he's not Tony Gwynn Sr. He was good enough in 2009 to hit .270 and score 59 runs. The Dodgers would be happy with that to go along with above average defense in all three outfield positions. With that, he could work his way into a rotation with Thames and Gibbons for left field. But if he hits .204 again, as he did with the Padres last year, he won't last long.

RHP Blake Hawksworth: Once a top Cardinals prospect, he was dealt to the Dodgers for Ryan Theriot. Hawksworth is out of options, so the Dodgers will give him a long look in Spring Training. He's been star-crossed with numerous injuries, including getting drilled in the face with a line drive by Sam Fuld last September, requiring 20 stitches. Ideally, he becomes a multiple-innings middle reliever.

Prospects to watch

INF Dee Gordon: He's athletic with the bloodlines passed down by father Flash Gordon. Now he needs to polish the defense at shortstop and continue to improve with the bat, but he's already shown to be more than a slap hitter. On the bases, he can fly. One concern will be his frame, because he really looks slight and has been unable to bulk up in any way.

RHP Rubby De La Rosa: After Jansen's meteoric arrival, the Dodgers may be more willing to fast-track De La Rosa coming off a breakthrough 2010 season in which he pitched even better at Double-A than Class A. He throws heat and has no shortage of confidence. But with six established starting pitchers on the Major League staff, the preference would be to hold off on De La Rosa at least until September.

OF Trayvon Robinson: He's not a can't-miss, but the steady improvement can't be ignored. Robinson combines speed with occasional power and he's learned how to take a walk. Contact remains a work in progress, but he can play all three outfield positions. Jerry Sands has gotten more attention because of his power, but Robinson is already on the Major League roster and likely would arrive sooner.

OF Xavier Paul: He had three callups in 2010 and showed glimpses, but not enough to convince management that he could win a starting job. He's also had a series of injuries, including a neck strain that cut short his 2010 season. He has above-average running speed, a right fielder's throwing arm and an aggressive swing.

OF Jerry Sands: If his stats from last season didn't put him on the radar enough, the time he spent playing in the Arizona Fall League for Mattingly did. Sands has an advanced approach at the plate and he's an above-average defensive outfielder. He's also a surprisingly effective basestealer and he could be the eventual answer in left field.

INF Russ Mitchell: He got a taste with a September callup, when two of his six hits were homers. He's a hard-nosed grinder who can handle the infield corners and has the power tools for those positions. Management seems sold on his attitude, but not necessarily his ability to be an everyday player. A big Spring Training could change that perception.

INF Ivan DeJesus Jr.: If he finished 2010 in the doghouse, he changed the perception with a solid Arizona Fall League with Mattingly watching. There is concern that he's lost a step after breaking his leg in 2009, but he convinced Mattingly that he can be a Major League hitter. Because he no longer seems to have shortstop skills, he might have to settle for utility status.

RHP Javy Guerra: He had a solid Arizona Fall League stint cut short by a kitchen mishap that left him with a gash to his pitching hand that required surgery to repair, but he's expected to be ready for Spring Training. He's unlikely to get a real shot to make the club, but he has closer experience and could take a step forward with an effective spring.

On the rebound

RHP Broxton: His second-half collapse was a mystery to the club. He insists he wasn't hurt, even though his velocity was down more than five miles an hour from a year earlier. Torre said he believed Broxton lost his confidence. Mattingly said he comes into Spring Training with Broxton his closer. Anyone who saw him pitch in the second half wonders how that will work out.

OF Kemp: It's hard to look at a career-high 28-homer season as an off-year, but that is the enigma of Kemp. So much is expected because so much came so relatively easily. In 2010 his average plunged, his defense regressed and his base-stealing was awful. The talent is immense and it's hoped that a younger manager and staff will help cultivate it.

1B Loney: For three years, Loney made up for a lack of power with consistency, but in 2010 he went Jekyll/Hyde on the Dodgers, hitting .309 with 63 RBIs in the first half and plunging to .211/25 in the second half. He still got 88 RBIs, but without the power, he needs at least to flirt with .300 to justify playing first base, a position where offensive production is mandatory.

RHP Belisario: Showing up on time will be a good start after two years of visa problems, not to mention a midseason hiatus for an unconfirmed drug rehab. He had an overpowering winter in the Venezuelan League, for what that's worth. But with Jansen and Guerrier, management isn't counting on Belisario, so he'll need to earn his way back into a key role.

RHP Vicente Padilla: Two disabling injuries last year convinced management that Padilla can hold up to the rigors of starting, but he's intriguing as a swingman who can spot start, pitch multiple innings of relief as Jeff Weaver did and even has the nasty stuff to slide into a closer role if Broxton doesn't bounce back. The question will be whether his arm can rebound from daily use.

RHP Ramon Troncoso: Another young player who regressed in 2010. Troncoso's sinker didn't sink as it did the year before, resulting in a pair of Minor League demotions and an escalating ERA after making 73 appearances as a key contributor in 2009. Some speculate that the 2009 workload led to the 2010 slippage, but Troncoso insisted his arm felt fine and mechanical flaws were to blame.

LHP Scott Elbert: The bullpen already looks crowded, but Elbert will have a chance to at least show he's got his act back together after skipping out of Triple-A Albuquerque for three months with personal issues. If he's really good, he could become a second lefty in the bullpen. To simplify his task, management has scrapped plans to have him start and will use him exclusively in relief.

Long gone

MGR Torre: He stabilized a team in disarray when he arrived and led it to the verge of the World Series twice, but the third year was not the charm and Torre essentially fired himself, saying the clubhouse needed a new, younger voice. Maybe that was the reason, or maybe he tired of the off-field drama. Either way, his hand-picked successor and protege takes over. C Martin: A former two-time All-Star, his play had regressed for two years, then he suffered a broken hip. Nonetheless, the Dodgers offered him $4.2 million, but when he demanded $5 million, he was non-tendered. He suffered torn knee cartilage rehabbing the hip, but that didn't stop the Yankees from giving him the money.

LHP George Sherrill: The no-brainer non-tender of the year, even he predicted he wouldn't be invited back. Lights-out after being acquired for the 2009 stretch run, he was horrible from the first day of Spring Training and never got out of the funk. His salary went to Guerrier. Whether a second lefty can be found to replace him remains to be seen.

RHP Weaver: He was bothered by a bad knee in the second half of the season, but the Dodgers feel that with Padilla they have an upgraded Weaver, a swingman with better stuff. Weaver will be missed in the clubhouse and the pregame pitcher's meeting.

C Brad Ausmus: He'll be missed in the clubhouse and the pregame meetings with pitchers, but, at 41, Ausmus decided it was time to go. He was quickly hired by the Padres for a special assistant's role and will someday be a manager if he wants.

INF Theriot: If Theriot had repeated his August (.304) in September (.141), maybe the Dodgers don't go after Uribe. But Theriot completely vanished down the stretch, showed no power all year and was looking at a significant salary (the Cardinals gave him $3.3 million). Even though he came over in the Ted Lilly trade, the Dodgers dumped him for a middle reliever (Hawksworth) that is out of options.

OF Reed Johnson: He had plenty of opportunity with Manny Ramirez's repeated injuries, but Johnson's chronic back went out at the worst possible time. The club made no effort to keep him.

OF Scott Podsednik: He rejected a $2 million option and the Dodgers have signed Thames, Gibbons and Gwynn for only slightly more than that. He might have overplayed his hand, especially considering he ended his brief stay with the Dodgers prematurely with plantar fasciitis. That said, it would be nice to have his offensive skills in the No. 2 hole in the batting order.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.