2/18/2014 3:09 P.M. ET
Mattingly: Paco among 'best lefties in baseball' in '13
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Don Mattingly left a weary Paco Rodriguez off the NL Championship Series roster last October, but that doesn't mean he'll leave the lefty off the Opening Day roster next month.
"He was one of the best lefties in baseball last year. He got lefties and righties out. Without Paco last year, we're in trouble," said Mattingly. "He just ran out of steam. He was used in a lot of appearances. To me, he's right back on track. There's no reason not to be confident. The guy's got weapons."
And the Dodgers have a potential numbers crunch in the bullpen if everybody's healthy. The presence of left-hander Paul Maholm has led to speculation that Rodriguez could be on the bubble. If Maholm doesn't displace fifth starter Josh Beckett, Maholm has a guaranteed contract and could pitch in relief, while Rodriguez still has Minor League options.
"Paco has shown his value," said Mattingly. "He's not a guy who had a good year at Triple-A. He had a good year in the big leagues."
The 22-year-old Rodriguez finished the season with a 2.32 ERA and .164 opponents batting average.
Mattingly ensuring Hanley is not distracted
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday he has spoken with Hanley Ramirez to ensure the shortstop is focused on playing and not distracted by a potential contract extension.
Ramirez will be eligible for free agency after this year. The club has had preliminary talks with Ramirez about an extension, and Los Angeles gave a record-breaking seven-year, $215 million deal to two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw this offseason.
One big difference in the players is that Kershaw has been an iron man, while Ramirez played only 86 games last year due to injuries to his thumb, hamstring, back and ribs.
As a former player, Mattingly said he knows how an uncertain contract status can be a distraction, and he raised the issue with Ramirez to make sure they were on the same page.
"It's a conversation I wanted to have. I didn't want it hanging out there," said Mattingly. "I've been a player, I know. He knows what I think about him as a player."
Ramirez said last week that he wants to be a Dodger "for life," but he was reluctant to discuss his contract beyond that.
An extension would probably come with the agreement that Ramirez move permanently to third base when the Dodgers have a shortstop replacement ready.
Mattingly said if Ramirez takes care of business on the field, the contract will take care of itself.
"When you worry about it, it takes away from the game," Mattingly said. "I do see this as a carrot. He knows at the end of the year if nothing happens, there are 30 teams. Nothing wrong with that. It's what free agency is all about.
"He's in a great spot. Just go play. He's confident in what he can do. If we can keep him on the field, he'll be fine. I want Hanley to be a leader, and we saw after he won the [World Baseball Classic] last year, he was talking about winning, not about his at-bats. We've seen real growth in Hanley. He's been great."
All eyes on flamethrowing prospect Martin
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago, Hyun-Jin Ryu couldn't pick up a baseball without the eyes of an entire organization glued to him.
On Field 2 on Tuesday, Ryu threw live batting practice for the first time this spring and, other than a couple of reporters from Korea, nobody was watching.
Instead, the eyes of the organization were at Field 1, watching hard-throwing left-handed prospect Jarret Martin look very capable and in command against Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe. The audience included general manager Ned Colletti and his posse, manager Don Mattingly and most of the staff.
"I was kind of aware of them. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," said Martin, a 24-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., who grew up a Dodgers fan and was acquired at the 2011 Winter Meetings from Baltimore in the Dana Eveland trade. "I was comfortable with it. It was the first time I've faced a lineup of Major League hitters and I was looking forward to it. It's a chance to show myself. You shouldn't be here unless you want to face the best."
A 19th-round Draft pick, Martin has struck out 351 in 348 professional innings, but also has walked 224. He said he made a mechanical "epiphany" during instructional league after the 2012 season by tinkering with his hand separation that improved his timing. He made a mental breakthrough five starts into last season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga after a chat with pitching coach Matt Herges.
"I just decided I was athletic enough to get the baseball across the plate, athletic enough and competitive enough," Martin said. "I started thinking about throwing the ball over the plate and stopped thinking about my mechanics on the mound. I'm aggressive, not low-key. I'm in-your-face, attack. It's part of the transformation I went through from starter to reliever."
That transformation came after 14 starts at Rancho Cucamonga and he was so effective in relief he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, where he walked 12 in 10 2/3 innings but posted a 1.69 ERA that earned him protection onto the Major League roster.
"What he does is hard to find," said Herges. "Mid-to-upper 90s with a potentially wipe-out slider. He realized last year he was fighting it. He needed to just go compete and that's when it clicked for him. It's like the fog lifted."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.