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Colletti chats about third base, Mattingly

Colletti chats about third base, Mattingly

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has had a busy offseason. On Tuesday he chatted online with fans about the competition at third base, Don Mattingly stepping down, the status of Jason Schmidt and Yhency Brazoban, and the Dodgers' last Spring Training in Vero Beach.

Ned Colletti: Thanks for taking part in this chat. I'm looking forward to taking your questions so let's get started.

eastchamps: Will Juan Pierre now play left field with the acquisition of Andruw Jones?

Colletti: With 10 Gold Gloves in center field, Andruw is one of the premiere players in the game and he will be our center fielder. Whenever he needs a day off, we've got Juan Pierre, who we can slide back over and perhaps at some point in time, Matt Kemp. Juan will shift over to left field but in the end, that will be Joe Torre's decision.

eastchamps: Is Kyle Lohse a possibility?

Colletti: Right now, he's not on our radar. With the addition of Hiroki Kuroda, we feel we've strengthened our rotation and with the emergence of some of our young pitchers, we feel comfortable where we are with our starting pitching.

jes618: Is Andy LaRoche healthy going into Spring Training?

Colletti: Andy was just here at the camp and he seemed to be doing well. We feel that with the proper exercises and conditioning that any previous problems that he's had can be alleviated. As of right now, it appears as if he'll have a good chance to make the club, either as our everyday third baseman or as an extra player. We'll let the players decide who the everyday players will be.

Thanatos: When will you sign Russell Martin to a long-term deal?

Colletti: We explored this possibility early in the offseason and the agent declined.

shane46992: I know that you want a good balance between veterans and the youth movement, however, would you be willing to trade Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, for example, to win now?

Colletti: There are very few players that we won't consider moving, however, whenever we're talking about players that are at the top of the list as far as prospects or young Major League players go, we would have to be able to acquire a player that can make a dramatic difference, both short-term, mid-term and long-term with our club. We've traded young players, but we've been careful to not let go of those that we feel cannot only be big league players, but impact big league players.

bensrg: What are the chances Kershaw gets called up to the big leagues this year?

Colletti: Clayton was at our workouts the last couple weeks. He's in great shape, not only physically but mentally. I wouldn't put it past him to be in the big leagues before the end of this season. There's no question that his birth certificate may work against him in some people's eyes, but a kid with his maturity and his ability, with a little refinement in his pitching skills and a touch more experience, may have a chance to be here before the year's out.

panko: I am terribly disappointed this is the Dodgers' last year in Vero Beach. What on earth are these owners thinking leaving a 60-year traditional Spring Training site? It's really leaves us East Coast transplants out in the cold.

Colletti: No question, it's a difficult situation. I'm as aware and respectful of tradition as anyone in baseball. To move our Spring Training camp and rehabilitation facility out West, we felt made sense for our many fans who live in Los Angeles and throughout the Southwest part of the country. It's a situation where not everybody is going to be happy with the decision, as many people who live in the Southwest and in Los Angeles have had a difficult time over the years trying to get to Vero Beach and see Dodgertown. Those people have missed out on Spring Training for many years and we think this move is the best thing for the majority of Dodgers fans. We hope that all of you East Coast transplants will still come to see us when we're in town during the regular season.

shane46992: Assuming that Rafael Furcal has a productive year, are you willing to sign him to an extension or will you replace him with a young shortstop?

Colletti: It's something we've considered internally. It's our understanding that Rafael likes Los Angeles and would love to stay. We believe in 2006, he was a very important player for us because of how productive he was. Unfortunately, when he was hurt with a week to go in Spring Training, we also saw how important a player he was when he wasn't at full strength for a year. I think him not being completely healthy was one of the drawbacks we faced, offensively and defensively, last year.

tru2myblue: I just read that Don Mattingly has stepped down as hitting coach. We're sorry he won't be on the staff. Any ideas on possible replacements?

Colletti: Mike Easler will replace Don Mattingly as the hitting coach this season. Besides having Major League experience both as a player and a hitting coach, Mike has worked very closely with the vast majority of our young players, both in Jacksonville two years ago and in Las Vegas last year. We felt at this late stage in the offseason that the transition would be easier with someone who has a strong working knowledge with the vast majority of our younger players. No doubt we were looking forward to Don Mattingly being in Los Angeles with the club. In a very short period of time, he exhibited a tremendous knowledge and foresight in teaching hitting and in his general knowledge of the game. He will remain a part of the organization and will continue to provide us with his input throughout the season.

Buckner22: How are Yhency Brazoban and Jason Schmidt progressing, and will they be ready come Spring Training?

Colletti: Jason Schmidt continues on his rehab program without any setbacks. He's been throwing off a mound for a couple of weeks, but it'll be a step-by-step process in the spring to see where he's at come Opening Day. The same can be said about Yhency. Obviously both pitchers, if healthy, have a chance to play a major role with us. We feel good about our team without having to rely on those two pitchers, and adding them to the mix will only make us better.

harry101: Where do you see Jason Repko in the Dodgers' plans?

Colletti: Well Harry, in my two seasons here, Jason and Yhency are two players that I've had many conversations with but really haven't had a chance to watch them play much. I'm hopeful that Jason is completely healthy and can contribute to the team.

bwc3821: With so many of the Dodgers top young players moving on to the bigs lately, how would you rate the state the Dodgers farm system as stands now?

Colletti: Despite the fact that most of our prospects have graduated to the Majors, we still have talent at the lower levels and we hope that they'll continue to progress the way these players that you see now have progressed. The development program that we just had over the past two weeks is a huge step toward developing top talent in our Minor League system and we hope to see the benefits from that down the road.

bobwisore: Will the Dodgers look to steal more bases now that they have some speed?

Colletti: We don't think it's out of the question to have 100-plus stolen bases out of Furcal, Pierre and Martin. We don't think it's unreasonable to expect 20-plus home runs from Jones, Jeff Kent, James Loney, Martin and perhaps Kemp/Andre Ethier. We think the combination of speed and power are somewhat rare in the National League. Many times, a team has power without speed or speed without power, but to have three players that are capable of stealing 20-plus bases and two capable of stealing 40-50 bases, coupled with the power maturation of our young players, is pretty intriguing.

yanksdjar: What's your team's weakness, if you had to chose one?

Colletti: I'll choose two. We have to get the third base situation straightened out and we're always looking for additional pitching, especially in the bullpen.

socaldodgr: Mr. Colletti, in negotiations with Andruw Jones, did he express interest in signing an extension to stay with the Dodgers beyond the agreed terms?

Colletti: In our discussions with Andruw, we believe that he would like to make Los Angeles a long-term destination. With a two-year deal, that will give us a chance to get to know him and for him to get to know the Dodgers and their great fans. Our hope, and perhaps his hope, is that he is a productive Dodger for a long time and can leave his mark on this franchise, much as he did in Atlanta.

Colletti: Thank you for taking the time today and for your questions. I share your hopes and excitement for the 2008 season. It's a sincere honor to represent this organization and its fans.

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