Notes: No changes on managerial front
Little expected to return to lead Dodgers in 2008 season
LOS ANGELES -- Despite the sudden availability of Joe Torre, there is no indication from the Dodgers that anything has changed from the last day of the season, when owner Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti said Grady Little would return as manager.
Little originally was signed during the 2005 Winter Meetings to a two-year deal plus an option for 2008. After guiding the club to a 17-win improvement in 2006, Little's 2008 option was guaranteed and a 2009 option was added. Little's salary is estimated around $600,000, with incentives based on postseason advancement.
Little's extensive player development background and understated homespun good nature provided in 2006 a calming leadership influence on a team in transition after a tumultuous season that ended with the departures of field manager Jim Tracy and general manager Paul DePodesta. But as the club fell out of contention in 2007 and clubhouse tension between veteran players and youth surfaced, Little came under fire.
Colletti selected Little over four other candidates -- Jim Fregosi, John McLaren, Manny Acta and Joel Skinner. Since then, McLaren has become manager of the Seattle Mariners, Acta was hired to manage the Washington Nationals and Skinner is rumored to be in the running for the vacant Pittsburgh Pirates managing job.
There still has been no announcement about Little's coaching staff, though all members were given permission to seek other opportunities. Bill Mueller, who replaced Eddie Murray as hitting coach at midseason, is expected to resume his front-office role. The Daily News reported that bench coach Dave Jauss is close to accepting a job with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Prospects playing: Dodgers infielder Chin-lung Hu is leading the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League with a .375 average after seven games, but he'll soon be leaving to play for his native Taiwan in the World Cup. Teammate Chin-hui Tsao, who has missed most of his career with shoulder problems, also is expected to participate, as are Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young.
In other Arizona Fall League results, Blake Dewitt is 4-for-12 in four games, while Xavier Paul is 4-for-25. Pitcher Greg Miller continues to struggle with an 18.00 ERA after two starts with a line of four innings, 10 hits allowed, six strikeouts, three walks, one hit batter and one home run allowed. Justin Orenduff (1.60 ERA) and Wesley Wright (2.84) have the lowest ERAs, but Wright has walked six in 6 1/3 innings.
Playing for the West Oahu CaneFires in the Hawaii Winter League, first baseman Russell Mitchell (.293) and outfielder Ryan Rogowski (.286) are off to the best starts offensively. Steve Johnson has been the most effective pitcher with a 4.50 ERA in three starts, including 11 strikeouts and one walk in 13 innings.
They have options: The Dodgers have 2008 options on infielder Ramon Martinez, catcher Mike Lieberthal and pitcher Randy Wolf.
Martinez, with a $1 million salary or $50,000 buyout for 2008, is the least likely to return. The club might be interested in Lieberthal returning as Russell Martin's backup, but not at the $1.4 million option price. He earned $1.15 million in 2007, and there is a $100,000 buyout.
Wolf's option is for $9 million, and with his health a question mark after shoulder surgery, the club won't take that risk. There is a $500,000 buyout, but he also could return with an incentive-based deal if he can't find a club willing to guarantee a higher salary. Wolf turned down three-year deals to play at home with only one year guaranteed.
McCourt speaks: Club president Jamie McCourt spoke this week at the Children Uniting Nations conference at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington in support of at-risk children.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.