SAN FRANCISCO -- General manager Ned Colletti believes the Dodgers' recent improved play is the result of a more consistent offense since the addition of Juan Rivera and an indication that the club does not need a major offseason overhaul.
Colletti said he hasn't discussed next season's payroll with owner Frank McCourt, but added that "that's not unusual in the best of times" at this point of the year.
Because of Rafael Furcal's trade and free agents that could leave, the Dodgers could have as much as $50 million coming off the payroll in 2012. Colletti didn't rule out speculation that the Dodgers might make a run at a major offensive free agent -- Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are in this year's crop.
"It's got to be the right bat," he said.
Colletti added, however, "it's never been easy to build through free agency and I really don't like to do it. We do it when pressed, when we don't have a player coming through the system or on the Major League roster, but it's always more precarious than developing or trading."
He also said James Loney's offensive resurgence after a mysterious one-year slump has somewhat changed the club's view of the first baseman, who is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.
"It's more indicative of him and how he's hit the rest of his career," said Colletti. "The games in L.A., where he exhibited pull-side power, were really encouraging. It's there. He can do it."
Colletti reiterated that signing outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to multiyear deals is "up there in the top echelon of priorities." They both will be entering their final season before free-agent eligibility in 2012. Colletti also said he might try to do the same with Clayton Kershaw, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and will remain under the club's control for at least three more seasons.
"It's a possibility, but it's a different dynamic than Andre and Matt," he said. "If it makes sense to both, it would be worth pursuing."
In other words, if Kershaw gives up market value in exchange for security.
"It's less a priority for somebody with three years of arbitration," Colletti said.
He's also interested in bringing back starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, despite indications that Kuroda might want to return and play in Japan before retiring.
"If he wants to come back," said Colletti, "I'd love to entertain it."
Billingsley works on making adjustments
SAN FRANCISCO -- In his bullpen session Saturday, Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley began the task of fixing a flaw discovered in his mechanics.
"The last few games, by trying to get on top of the ball, he's been changing his arm slot," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "We looked at video from '08 and '09 and he was more [in a three-quarters slot]. Lately he's been higher and he hasn't been comfortable doing it. For me, right now, we've got to get him back to feeling what's natural for him."
Billingsley is coming off his shortest outing of the season Wednesday, when he went only 2 2/3 innings and couldn't protect a four-run lead. He's allowed eight runs (six earned) on 19 hits over his last 10 innings. He's gone six starts without a win.
"At least today, he felt the ball coming out better, could feel it with his fingertips," said Honeycutt. "He hasn't been feeling it coming out of his hand right and that puts uncertainty in your mind. Without that confidence, you're just guessing. You see the target, but you're not feeling good about the results before you even start. Subconsciously, you're doubting yourself."
Honeycutt said Billingsley plans a similar side session Monday in preparation for his next start Tuesday night.
"He usually throws twice between starts and we had backed off that a little, trying to find the right mixture," he said. "We're searching."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.