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Notes: Mueller's interim tag lifted

Notes: Mueller's interim tag lifted

LOS ANGELES -- When Dodgers management wasn't satisfied with the offensive results under hitting coach Eddie Murray, he was replaced by Bill Mueller, who was given the title of interim hitting coach.

Interim was removed from the title Monday when manager Grady Little announced that Mueller would finish the season as the team's hitting coach. Contracts of the entire coaching staff expire after this season.

"We like the way the hitters have responded and he likes it," Little said of Mueller, who retired as a player after last season with a deteriorating knee and is still receiving a $4.5 million salary under the terms of his contract.

"The total approach of the offense is better. We're seeing more pitches, the on-base percentage is better. Check the numbers. I don't know how much you can attribute to one person. A lot of it is personal responsibility of the players. Production is what we're looking for."

When it was pointed out that Mueller has had the benefit of recently promoted hot young hitters James Loney and Matt Kemp, Little said: "The guys who have been here all year are picking it up, too."

Mueller had been happy learning the ropes of the front office as a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti when he was asked to replace Murray, and at the time said he would need to evaluate if being away from his Arizona home would work.

He said his wife gave her approval and he also credited Manny Mota, who returned to his role of unofficial assistant coach after having been taken off the road this year.

"Having Manny here has been tremendous, a huge help," Mueller said. "That also influenced my decision. I feel like Manny and I have been a positive influence."

Under Murray, who was replaced June 14, the Dodgers were 38-28 (.575). The team batting average was .261 and the on-base percentage of .329 was seventh in the league while scoring an average of 4.4 runs per game.

Under Mueller, the Dodgers are 8-8 (.500). The team batting average is .288 and the on-base percentage is .354 while scoring an average of 4.6 runs.

Statistically, the players showing the most improvement in average and on-base percentage since the change are young hitters Andre Ethier and Tony Abreu and veteran Luis Gonzalez. Russell Martin, consistent all year, is up slightly. Wilson Betemit and Rafael Furcal have slipped. Nomar Garciaparra and Juan Pierre have shown virtually no difference before and after the change.

Communication has been a buzzword used to describe the reason for the change. Murray, a Hall of Famer as a player with high expectations of his hitters, developed a reputation for a "my way or the highway" approach to teaching that won few converts in the clubhouse, be it veteran or rookie.

Some players said one obvious advantage Mueller has over Murray is his familiarity with opposing pitchers because he just came off the field. Murray retired as a player 10 years ago.

All-Stars that got away: Martin is only the third player drafted by the Dodgers since 1979 to become an All-Star for the Dodgers (fellow catchers Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca the others).

But the Dodgers have drafted other players that have gone on to become All-Stars for other clubs. Two future All-Stars they signed and later traded away were Paul Konerko and Ted Lilly.

And they were unable to sign four draftees that later re-entered the Draft and became All-Stars -- Chase Utley, their second-round pick in 1997; current Dodger Randy Wolf, a 25th-rounder in 1994; Phil Nevin, a 1989 third-rounder and Paul Quantrill, a 26th-rounder in 1986.

Hendrickson ready for Wednesday: Mark Hendrickson, who takes over Hong-Chih Kuo's fifth-starter spot Wednesday, agreed with Little that he should be capable of between 75-90 pitches, even though he hasn't started a game since May 31.

Hendrickson admitted he was disappointed to be passed over by Chad Billingsley to replace Jason Schmidt in the rotation two weeks ago, but he had "no argument" based on the way Billingsley had pitched out of the bullpen.

"I can only control what I can control," he said. "I'm happy with the way I've pitched."

Hendrickson has allowed one earned run in 9 2/3 innings over his last five appearances.

Different strikes: Derek Lowe will host the third annual Dodgers Dream Foundation Bowling Extravaganza on July 30 at Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood. Lowe and many of his Dodgers teammates, coaches and Hollywood celebrities will be on hand for the charitable event. Individual spots and lanes are still available by calling 323-224-1413.

Coming up: Wolf (9-6, 4.33) opposes Atlanta's Kyle Davies (3-7, 5.42) Tuesday night at 7:10 PT.

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

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