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Gwynn faces uncertain future with Dodgers

Gwynn faces uncertain future with Dodgers

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Gwynn faces uncertain future with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- When Tony Gwynn Jr. signed a two-year contract with the Dodgers last December, a Minor League demotion in August and being bypassed for a September callup wasn't what he had in mind.

But his offensive slump and management's acquisition of outfielder Shane Victorino left Gwynn as the forgotten man in the roster makeover, even though he's under contract for 2013 at $1.15 million.

"I was ticked off. I don't know a person that wouldn't be," said Gwynn, 30. "I struggled toward the end before they designated me. Prior to that, I was playing well. When you have deep pockets, you try to do something to improve the roster. That's what they tried to do."

It didn't work, as the Dodgers didn't make the postseason. Victorino was a disappointment, his offensive numbers only slightly better than Gwynn's. Victorino is expected to leave as a free agent. Gwynn doesn't know what to expect.

Has he asked for a trade?

"Not as of yet," he said. "I don't know if I will. I haven't had a discussion with anybody in the organization."

Gwynn was batting .232 with 13 steals in 103 games, 57 starts, most of them when Matt Kemp was sidelined by a strained left hamstring. He was hitting .277 as late as June 10, but hit .163 after that while battling nagging leg injuries.

"I can't say I felt 100 percent, but I was good enough to contribute," he said. "Everybody has things going on."

Long term, the Dodgers have three starting outfielders with multi-year contracts exceeding $300 million. Two of them -- Matt Kemp (shoulder) and Carl Crawford (elbow) -- are coming off operations with no assurance either will be ready for the start of Spring Training. The Dodgers have a $4 million option on Juan Rivera they can buy out for $500,000.

General manager Ned Colletti has said he views Jerry Hairston as one of the club's extra outfielders. Nick Punto can play there, too. That leaves Gwynn as essentially an insurance policy, with the possibility of more time in the Minor Leagues if Kemp, Crawford and Andre Ethier are healthy.

"If that's the route I have to go, I'm a professional, I do what I have to do," he said. "I'm just trying to move on and go day to day. I can't worry about the past. I can't say it doesn't stink, but I don't hold a grudge."

He said he was told "in a round-about way" by the club that he was a victim of a numbers crunch for roster spots during the summer's acquisition spree.

"And when that happened, I assumed I wouldn't get called up in September," he said. "We had 49 guys with a 40-man roster; so many guys on the 60-day disabled list. I knew if they took me off, there was no reason they'd put me back on. I was the one they took. At the end of the day, you never know their thinking or plan, so I tried not to worry about it."

Management also knew the chances were likely they could keep Gwynn under control -- with $1.15 million guaranteed, it was unlikely he'd be claimed off waivers by another club or that he would void the contract to become a free agent. That last part is the double-edge sword to a guaranteed contract.

"It is in a sense," he said. "It's a good problem to have. I'm just going to get ready for the season and see what happens."

One benefit of his time with Albuquerque was the opportunity to get his game back on track. In 19 games he hit .338.

"You have to take advantage of going down and working on things that you can't work on at the Major League level when every game and every at-bat means so much," he said. "It wasn't anything major. I worked on my mindset and approach, just sharpened the focus and got into a rhythm. Going down, I was ticked, but I actually benefited."

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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