LOS ANGELES -- Compared to where he used to watch games at Dodger Stadium, Joe Torre likes his new seat location much better. "I've been in that opposing dugout many times, trying to hold a lead," said the Dodgers manager prior to Friday night's game with Boston, the first of a three-game series that will sandwich a nostalgic drop-in at the Los Angeles Coliseum between contests in Chavez Ravine. "It's still a Spring Training game, but [Dodger Stadium] is such a special place," said Torre, who marveled at the fact that "it's been here since 1962."More
And there's no doubt in Torre's mind that Sox manager Terry Francona is here to play. "Knowing [Francona}, that world championship was last year," Torre said, adding that "they certainly know how to retool." As for his own retooling, Torre took a few swings at queries about his infield and outfield starters for 2008. At third base, the manager said, "Right now Blake DeWitt looks like the solution." Why? "It's just the way he carries himself," Torre said, also citing an at-bat in Thursday night's tie with the Angels, during which DeWitt turned a 1-2 count into a walk. "Even though it's Spring Training," Torre said, "for that young man, every game counts." More delicate than Torre's third-base quandary is the question of Jeff Kent's readiness to begin the season at second, given his tender right hamstring. Under scrutiny from Torre and Stan Conte, Dodgers director of medical services, Kent went through a simulated home-to-home baserunning drill, circling the bases with first-to-second, first-to-third, and third-to-home segments included. "He looked fine," said Torre, who wrote Kent into the cleanup spot in Friday's lineup, where he drove in the Dodgers' first run with a double to the right-center gap in the fourth inning. Later, commenting on Kent's possible readiness for Monday's season opener with San Francisco, Torre said, "It's not that Opening Day has any kind of charm for him. He wants to play. I'm certainly not going to tell him about his body." Naturally, the outfield question came up, and Torre was able to navigate the issue as diplomatically as possible, given his four-man pool of possible starters -- Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre. "It's a good decision [to have to make]," Torre said. "Somebody's going to get angry, and I certainly don't want people on the bench who are satisfied [to be there]." Would he consider platooning his outfielders? "We'll try to utilize as many people as we can to be ready," Torre said. "All four of them feel they can play every day. "It's a nice problem because you have a little insurance. I'll handle it the best I can. ... You just hope players understand what the problem is but not let it get in the way of playing." And how's this for diplomacy? Asked to reveal his criterion - would it be matchups? - in setting the Dodgers' outfield on a day-in, day-out basis, Torre said, "It's just going to be a 'feel' thing. If you look at matchups, they don't tell you anything."
Ted Brock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less