Dodgers dug out of trenches in '06

Comeback Dodgers made big gains in 2006

In the first season with Ned Colletti as general manager and Grady Little as field manager, the Dodgers gained 17 games in the standings, finishing in a tie for the division title and advancing to the playoffs as the Wild Card, losing in three games to the Mets in the Division Series.

In last place on July 26, 7 1/2 games out of first, the Dodgers gained eight games in 15 days and won 17 of 18 for the first time since 1899. The club broke its home attendance record with more than 3.75 million.

In addition to All-Star selections of Brad Penny and Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers received unexpected contributions from rookies Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Takashi Saito, among others. Saito, who inherited the closer role after injuries to Eric Gagne and Yhency Brazoban and Danys Baez's ineffectiveness, set a franchise rookie record with 24 saves.

The offense lacked power, but Rafael Furcal shook off an early-season slump and Garciaparra repeatedly delivered clutch hits to support J.D. Drew's 100 RBIs. Penny and Derek Lowe each won 16 games and received a late-season boost with the arrival of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.


Free-agent pitcher Brett Tomko was signed to a two-year contract. Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack were acquired from the Mets for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. Furcal and Jeff Kent underwent knee and wrist operations, respectively.


Little opened his first Spring Training as Dodgers manager. Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully signed a contract extension through the 2008 season. Chairman Frank McCourt announced that player names will return to the backs of uniforms for the 2007 season.


Hee-Seop Choi was claimed off waivers by Boston, and Gagne soon joined them with a second operation on his elbow in 10 months, followed by Brazoban's elbow operation. Jason Repko got off to a fast start offensively, and Penny went 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA to start a first half that led to an All-Star Game start. Baez shined in relief, earning eight saves in the month with a 1.32 ERA, allowing just 11 hits, three walks and striking out 10.

launch the 2006 year in review


Aaron Sele took over Odalis Perez's spot in the starting rotation and won three of his five starts in the month. Rookie Martin is called up to replace the injured Dioner Navarro and never gives up the starting catching job. Bill Mueller had knee surgery that effectively ended his career, and Garciaparra had 28 RBIs en route to an All-Star berth.


Gagne finally returned, but it was short-lived, as his surgically repaired elbow still was not sound and he soon returned to the disabled list. Rookies Willie Aybar, Martin and Matt Kemp stepped up, particularly Kemp, who hit seven home runs in the month. Cesar Izturis returned from elbow surgery, but at third base. Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall were acquired from Tampa Bay for Seo, Navarro and Justin Ruggiano.


The Dodgers went 9-16 in July and fell into last place. Penny was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game and Garciaparra won the Final Man vote for an All-Star berth. Gagne, still not healed from elbow surgery, injured his back and underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk. Ethier, the NL Player of the Week from July 3-9, had a big month at the plate (5 HR, 34 hits, 5 doubles, 2 triples, 18 RBIs), leading the club in all offensive categories but one -- Furcal had two more hits than Ethier.


The Dodgers, after losing 13 of 14, turned around the season with an 11-game win streak and went from last to first, as they exploded for 21 wins during the month of August. The month started with the arrival of Maddux and Julio Lugo, joining another newcomer, Wilson Betemit, who led the club with seven homers. Saito continued to excel as the closer by default.


The Dodgers finished September tied for the division lead and two games up in the Wild Card. An injured Garciaparra provided two key walk-off home runs, one after four Dodgers hit consecutive home runs on Sept. 18 to send a game into extra innings. Rookie James Loney, who filled in at first base for Garciaparra on Sept. 28, tied a franchise record with nine RBIs in a single game -- Gil Hodges set the record in 1950. Penny also picked up his league-leading 16th win.


The Dodgers finished the season winning their last seven games and eight of the final nine, tying San Diego for the division lead and advancing to the playoffs as the Wild Card. Saito broke the franchise rookie record with 24 saves. The club faced the New York Mets in the playoff and was swept in three games. Before the playoffs started, reliever Joe Beimel suffered a gash on his pitching hand with a broken glass in a New York bar. Garciaparra re-injured a pulled quad muscle and couldn't start in the final game.


Outfielder Drew exercised a clause in his contract and voided the final three years to become a free agent. The club was negotiating to move its Spring Training site to Glendale, Ariz. Mueller retired because of chronic knee problems and joined the front office as an assistant to Colletti. Free-agent outfielder Juan Pierre signed a five-year contract, and pitcher Randy Wolf signed a one-year contract.


Baseball America named the Dodgers their 2006 Organization of the Year. Free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt signed a three-year, $47 million contract, outfielder Luis Gonzalez signed a one-year contract, and catcher Mike Lieberthal signed a one-year deal.

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