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Mattingly will return to manage Dodgers in 2014

Mattingly will return to manage Dodgers in 2014

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Mattingly will return to manage Dodgers in 2014

LOS ANGELES -- Finally, both sides agree that Don Mattingly will return as Dodgers manager in 2014.

In a season-ending news conference on Monday, Mattingly surprised club officials by revealing that his 2014 option vested when the Dodgers beat the Braves in the National League Division Series. But Mattingly also said that didn't mean he would return, and aired his frustration at a lack of support by unnamed members of ownership.

Implying he might not return, according to a baseball source, was not a veiled threat by Mattingly that he would step down, but there was uncertainty over whether the club would dismiss him because he wanted a multiyear contract.

Specifically, Mattingly cited ownership's refusal to pick up that $1.4 million option a year ago, which Mattingly said made him a lame duck in the clubhouse. Mattingly hinted that he not only needed a multiyear contract to lift the uncertainty he managed under in 2013, but assurances from owners that they trust his ability.

There is no sign that he'll get such a long-term commitment from the club, but he's under contract for 2014, and he has indicated through his agent that he will fulfill the option year that was part of a three-year guaranteed contract.

Dodgers president Stan Kasten wouldn't go into Mattingly's future beyond the fact that "it never occurred to me that he wouldn't honor the contract. I absolutely always knew that."

The 52-year-old Mattingly, an iconic first baseman with the Yankees, came to the Dodgers as a coach for former manager Joe Torre and had been given a three-year contract to manage the team even before Torre stepped aside at the end of the 2010 season.

The Dodgers finished third and second in Mattingly's first two seasons in charge, which were hampered by ownership turmoil and a resulting frugal payroll.

This year, the new owners gave Mattingly an expensive and talented roster and wanted to see what he could do with it before committing to him long term.

It didn't start well. Zack Greinke, the $147 million free agent acquired to team with Clayton Kershaw as a co-ace, missed a month with a broken collarbone from a fracas with the Padres. Chad Billingsley made two starts before needing Tommy John surgery. Hanley Ramirez missed two months with thumb surgery and a strained hamstring.

But on June 22, with his club in last place, Mattingly's Dodgers unleashed what became the greatest in-season comeback in franchise history and one of the greatest in baseball history.

The Dodgers finished the season with a 92-70 record and won the NL West title by 11 games, the largest margin in Los Angeles history. They defeated Atlanta, 3-1, in the NL Division Series, and lost to St. Louis, 4-2, in the NL Championship Series.

The Dodgers became the fourth club to finish in first place after being in last on July 1 or later and the fourth team to win a division in a season in which they were at least 12 games below .500. They are the third team to rally from at least 9 1/2 games back to win by at least 10 games. Included in the comeback was the best 50-game stretch in franchise history, beginning on June 22, going 42-8.

At one point, the club won 15 consecutive road games, the first NL team to do that since 1957, and it went unbeaten in 18 consecutive series.

Injuries were the drag in the disappointing first half and the hurdle that had to be cleared in the comeback.

There were 25 placements on the disabled list. Billingsley (Tommy John surgery), Josh Beckett (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Scott Elbert (Tommy John surgery) were lost for virtually the entire season. Matt Kemp went on the DL three times, had two operations and his status for next year is uncertain. Andre Ethier played on a microfractured leg, and Ramirez suffered four serious injuries, including a broken rib that rendered him ineffective in the NLCS.

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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