© 2005 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

02/22/05 5:39 PM ET

DePodesta optimistic about season

Dodgers GM talks with fans during online chat

Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta fielded fan questions online from the club's Dodgertown Spring Training headquarters in Vero Beach, Fla. DePodesta answered questions about some of the Dodgers' offseason moves and the 2005 squad.

Paul DePodesta: I want to thank everyone for being here today. We have a lot of questions, so let's get going.

mlb_com_member: Will the club be making more deals?

DePodesta: I hope not! We've obviously been through a lot of change over the course of the past 12 months, but it's really been in the interest of creating long-term stability. Now that the dust has settled, we have a foundation of a team that should be together for a while. We're very happy with the group we have coming to camp.

gyrosblow: Do you have any influence over how Jim Tracy shapes the lineup?

DePodesta: Trace and I talk about everything going on with the club, but I need to trust him to manage the team. He often asks for my input, and at those times, I give my opinion, but it's his job to set the lineup.

lainwa: I'm as hopeful as anyone that Brad Penny will have a healthy dominant season. If he doesn't, how confident are you that our backup rotation can keep us ahead in the NL West?

DePodesta: There is no question that Brad is a key component of our club. However, we went to great lengths this winter to ensure that we had plenty of starting pitching depth. Toward that end, we re-signed Odalis Perez, Wilson Alvarez and Elmer Dessens and added Derek Lowe. Further, we added Buddy Carlyle, Ryan Rupe, and Scott Erickson, whom I believe could all start games for us at the Major League level. In addition to those guys, we still have Edwin Jackson and Joel Hanrahan as young high-end prospects.

gyrosblow: Paul, is there enough payroll flexibility to make some in-season moves if needed?

DePodesta: We did try to leave some dry powder going into the season. Hopefully, we won't feel the need to do so, but we definitely have some room to add more payroll if need be.

scully4la: You tend to have versatile bench players, which makes it easier to carry 12 pitchers. Do you think you will carry 12 pitchers on Opening Day?

DePodesta: We haven't made a decision yet as to the numbers of pitchers on our roster. I could envision scenarios with 11 pitchers or 12 pitchers. Fortunately, some of our players have extensive defensive flexibility which affords us that freedom.

edato: Can the Dodgers retain their dominance on defense with this squad, specifically up the middle?

DePodesta: Last year's team was arguably the best defensive team in the league, which is a pretty high standard to maintain. That being said, I expect our team to be well above average defensively again this year. Our particular strength, in addition to our Gold Glove shortstop, will be in the outfield, where we will have three legitimate center fielders roaming the area.

bigcpa1_2: I'm one of your biggest advocates anywhere, but I still haven't come to grips with losing Adrian Beltre. Did the emergence of Joel Guzman factor into the decision not to go higher on Beltre?

DePodesta: We believe that Joel is one of the top position player prospects in the game today. Currently, he's playing shortstop, but at 6'6" and with Cesar Izturis signed to a long-term contract, I wouldn't be surprised if he moves positions at some point. He has unusual power offensively, so he could definitely play the corner infield. In short, we expect him to make an impact for us in the relatively near future.

Matt_Bragg: Paul, Norihiro Nakamura intrigues me. Will he get the chance to platoon at first base and how many at-bats do you want to see him get?

DePodesta: Nori has been a big-time player in Japan for years. He's an eight-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner at third base. We're anxious to get him into camp to compete for a job. He can play multiple positions and has big power, especially against left-handed pitchers.

doo: Paul, between the Giants and Padres, which team do you think is the tougher competition for LA this year?

DePodesta: I wouldn't want to pick either one. They are both very good teams who fought us to the wire last year, and both teams made improvements over the course of the winter. I definitely think it's going to be a tough division again this year.

Robert_Flores: Any word on who the Opening Day starter will be?

DePodesta: We feel that one of our strengths is our starting pitching depth. We're not sure yet who will be our Opening Day starter, but Perez, Jeff Weaver, Lowe, and Penny are all candidates. Each one of them matched up against other No. 1 starters last year, and we're confident that any one of them could do the job this year.

thebiggrabowski: What is the status of Jayson Werth's elbow?

DePodesta: I spoke with Jayson this morning, and he's feeling great. We also had him come out to LA during the offseason for a follow-up MRI and exam, and the results were very encouraging. At this point, we're very optimistic.

kobeb: Can you share with us what baseball skill, if any, is being undervalued in the MLB marketplace?

DePodesta: We'll keep this answer to ourselves! Seriously, the entire front office team is hard at work constantly evaluating the marketplace, as it is constantly evolving.

irwin31: In hindsight, do you think you would have approached the negotiations with Beltre and Jose Lima differently than you did?

DePodesta: Actually, no. Given the information we had at the time, I believe we made offers that were about as good as possible. Certainly, you never like to lose a player, but you can only make decisions in the time and under the circumstances in which they have to made. We never have perfect information regarding other bids or the marketplace as a whole.

hatcher88: Hi Paul, I'm looking forward to the season. Which minor league prospects do you think are most likely to make contributions to the big team this year?

DePodesta: There always seem to be some pleasant surprises as the year progresses, but I think we were all intrigued with what we saw from Antonio Perez last year.

mlb_com_member: How do you feel the team is at this very moment, especially the newly acquired players?

DePodesta: I haven't been this excited for a Spring Training in a number of years. Though we have a lot of new faces, we are incredibly excited about this year's club. J.D. Drew is a complete player who finished sixth in the MVP voting last year. Jeff Kent is a former MVP, who is probably a first ballot Hall of Famer. Derek Lowe is a World Champion. This should be a terrific group.

Don_VandenBerge: What's the latest on Greg Miller? Does the organization still have high expectations for him? Is he still a top prospect?

DePodesta: Greg recently had another surgery on his shoulder. Last year, he never quite got healthy, so we're happy to have identified the problem. His ability is still jaw-dropping, so hopefully, once we get him healthy again, he'll reestablish himself as a top prospect.

chumsferd: Do you find it difficult to ignore what the media says about you?

DePodesta: Not really. I feel that we have an incredibly talented front office team here with Kim Ng, Roy Smith, Dan Feinstein, and Jason Amoroso, among others, and we go through every possibly scenario with incredible detail. We make decisions as a team, and I have total confidence and faith in that team.

DePodesta: Thanks very much for joining the chat room today! We're already having a good spring down here in Vero, and we're looking forward to another great year.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.