Lowe ready for Torre era to begin

Lowe ready for Torre era to begin

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers player most closely linked to Grady Little is totally pumped that Joe Torre was hired on Thursday as Little's replacement.

"Playing against him and seeing how good he is at winning, when you think of Joe Torre, you think of winning," said Derek Lowe, who played against Torre's Yankees while pitching for Little in Boston.

"It's a huge step in the right direction. If I was a fan, I'd be extremely excited. We just got arguably the best manager out there and you can't put Joe Torre on a team that doesn't have the talent to win it all."

In addition to Torre's managerial track record, Lowe said, his hiring could signal there's more good news on the way.

"Everything that happened, I didn't see any of it coming," said Lowe, who is entering the final year of a four-year contract. "But now that it's happened, I hope it's a sign that the organization is truly committed to winning.

"You have to assume that if they bring in Torre, they'll bring in the players to allow him to use his skills and win a World Series, to go out and get the best available. Everyone says that's Alex Rodriguez. Who knows? But, you hope this is the first step toward getting guys in here that have won before. There are all kinds of people we could get."

General manager Ned Colletti, in announcing Torre's hiring, was non-committal on the club's plans for a pursuit of Rodriguez, a free agent who would fill holes at third base and the middle of the batting order, but also would come with a price tag that equals the value of some franchises.

The Dodgers spent $124 million on salaries in 2007 and Colletti said the payroll for 2008 has not yet been determined. He said he hopes to add pitching, a middle-of-the-order bat and conceded that third base is "somewhat of a question" with Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche. Alternatives to Rodriguez might be free agent Mike Lowell or the possibility of a trade for someone like the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera.

Colletti, however, was cautious addressing roster upgrades. He warned that the free-agent market is "fairly thin" and that teams looking there to upgrade could be disappointed. The implication being that Torre's arrival did not mean the club scrapped plans to "stay the course" with the youth movement that took firm hold this year.

"It's also about the players we have here getting better," he said. "We're not always going to call in the cavalry, to make a bundle of moves free agency-wise or trade-wise. Trades are getting harder to consummate because teams aren't willing to move players of quality. So some of it's beholden upon us to getting the most out of the players we have here."

»» LA JOE: TORRE TO DODGERS ««
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ALL-TIME WINNINGEST MANAGERS       
1. Connie Mack 3,731
2. John McGraw 2,763
3. Tony La Russa 2,375
4. Bobby Cox 2,255
5. Sparky Anderson 2,194
6. Bucky Harris 2,157
7. Joe McCarthy 2,125
8. Joe Torre 2,067
9. Walter Alston 2,040
10. Leo Durocher 2,008

Nonetheless, the hot-stove possibilities have Lowe energized for 2008, a complete shift from the way he felt when the 2007 season unraveled.

"It was hard to go to the ballpark, and you never want to say that," he said. "What happened took all the fun out of it. We were not on the same page to win. Our communication was very poor, everybody -- me included -- and no one put a stop to it. You don't have to be best friends, but you have to find a way to root for the guy next to you to have the same goal."

Lowe was one of the Dodgers veterans who spoke out late in the season when everything went south. He doesn't have enough fingers to point in all the directions that deserved blame. That said, he's confident the clubhouse turmoil will be eliminated by Torre

"He'll change the attitude of our team, no doubt," he said. "He'll get the clubhouse straightened out relatively quickly in Spring Training. There was not one person really to blame. You can blame the veterans, the kids. All sectors handled it relatively poorly. By far, communication was the worst thing, a real failure.

"There was a lot of animosity. 'Anger' really isn't the right word. When young players move in, veterans will get irritated, that's just part of the game. But how some of the conversations were handled, that started the downward spiral. It got to the point, I don't know if it was ugly, but you know when Grady was saying we have to all pull in the same direction? Well, we had people pulling in every direction. That's why we struggled down the stretch. That's why I said that something had to change before Spring Training."

Teammate Joe Beimel, whose career blossomed playing for Little, said he's eager to play for Torre.

"The track record speaks for itself," he said. "I hope he gets us back to the playoffs. This speaks volumes about what the team is willing to do to win. I talked to [former Yankee] Scott Proctor today. He said to be ready to pitch a lot. He [Torre] likes to use the bullpen. That's fine with me."

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