03/21/08 10:00 AM ET
Torre making calls to better club
Dodgers skipper narrowing down tough choices on final roster
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Torre: I guess there's always some anxiety when you're a person that wants to make sure people who don't know you get to know who you really are. I'm more comfortable now, having been around long enough that I can even mess with them. I know I've got that look. I look very serious. And people who don't know me, I might say something kidding and I'm taken seriously. I think the people that I'm now dealing with regularly are getting to know that side of me and I am more comfortable in my surroundings.
MLB.com: From the e-mails I've been receiving, no upcoming decision of yours will be scrutinized as much as your choice between Juan Pierre and Andre Ethier in left field. What was your most scrutinized decision in New York?
Torre: Replacing Bernie Williams. People inside understood more than the fans. He was a very popular player. I always think big picture over last year. If you decide somebody else should be playing, the decision isn't the hard part. It's toughest having the conversation with the player. If the decision is tough, you're not being honest with yourself.
MLB.com: Pierre is not as popular of a player with Dodgers fans as Williams was with Yankees fans. But in a close call, do you generally go with the veteran?
Torre: If it's a close call, you've got to give the benefit of the doubt to experience. But if you feel certain that a decision makes the club better, that's the decision to make. I really haven't come to terms with it. Pierre has a track record. Andruw Jones has a track record. The other two kids, [Ethier and Matt Kemp], have ability. I wish there was an easy way to make the decision. A manager might have loyalty to a player, but loyalty to the team takes precedence. If there's a decision that makes the team better, then being loyal to one guy is not fair.
MLB.com: How far along are you in deciding who will be on the Opening Day roster?
Torre: Honestly, I haven't figured it out. It doesn't do me any good. There are too many variables. What I will do, probably this week, is ask all of my coaches to give me their 25-man rosters and we'll have a discussion. Usually, their opinion on each player is pretty much the same. The variables involve things like, are we keeping 11 or 12 pitchers? Does somebody have a nagging injury where we need some insurance at that position? It comes down to my decision and it's often based on needs.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
MLB.com: Clayton Kershaw just turned 20, but he seems to have as much ability as any of your pitchers. Is there a chance he'll sneak onto the Opening Day roster?
Torre: With his age and level of experience, we're all being cautious. We know his ability and he's been impressive, but right now our goal is not with the thought of him making the club, but of getting the experience of being around the Major League team. That's why we've brought him west with us, to get his feet wet and get that stuff out of the way. So whenever the time comes, he'll already have had the feel of being a Major League pitcher. I wish I had seen him more. When people in other organizations are saying the same things about a player -- that he can't miss -- you just keep your fingers crossed that he stays healthy. Everything about him is impressive -- his size, his stuff, his composure. It seems he's got his head screwed on.
MLB.com: Are you concerned that the China trip or the disruptive Spring Training will have a negative impact on the team at the start?
Torre: Initially, I was a little concerned about the China trip, but when I saw the list of the players, it really didn't include many of the Major Leaguers that are the core of the team. Moving around like we have, it's a bit like we're barnstorming, and it's tough to get a feel of baseball without continuity. But this is a game where you don't have time for a lot of self-pity.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.