Mattingly shaping Dodgers in his vision
LOS ANGELES – New manager Don Mattingly wants the Los Angeles Dodgers to play baseball the way he once did, with no excuses.
Mattingly is busy preparing for his first spring training in charge, having taken over from Joe Torre, who retired after last season.
“It’s going to be a no-excuse club,” he said Wednesday, leaning against the dugout railing under a hot winter sun at Dodger Stadium. “I want the kind of club that is mentally tough. We’re going to have some streaks where we don’t play well and I want us to be resilient.”
The former New York Yankees slugger inherits a team that was fourth in the NL West with an 80-82 record. The Dodgers finished 11 games behind division-winning San Francisco, which went on to win the World Series.
“We had a bad second half last year,” Mattingly said. “We didn’t swing the bats at all. A lot of things went wrong for a lot of guys. To pin it on one person, I don’t think is fair.”
Mattingly is overseeing the Dodgers’ winter development camp, which brings 16 of the club’s top minor league prospects to Los Angeles for work on fundamentals, strength training and conditioning.
Among those on the field Wednesday were Tony Gwynn Jr., Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson.
Matt Kemp came by the stadium a day earlier to talk with Mattingly. Kemp, along with Andre Ethier and James Loney, failed to match their 2009 statistics last year.
“These guys are going to be our bats,” Mattingly said. “I expect them to have big years. Our core group is going to have to play well.”
Although the cash-strapped Dodgers have been active in signing players this winter, they haven’t landed a big bat for the middle of the lineup.
And no, don’t look for still unemployed Manny Ramirez to return.
“I don’t think Manny is a viable option now,” Mattingly said, choosing his words carefully.
Loney, along with pitchers Chad Billingsley and Hong-Chih Kuo, is eligible for salary arbitration.
Other than taking a six-day break for his honeymoon in St. Lucia last month and some time over the holidays, Mattingly has been in baseball mode.
As a rookie manager, he’s surrounded himself with a veteran coaching staff, including new bench coach Trey Hillman, first base coach Davey Lopes and third base coach Tim Wallach.
“Don has never failed at anything he’s done,” Lopes said. “It’s a good fit for the Dodgers.”
Mattingly, who was promoted from hitting coach, suggested the coaching staff contributed to last season’s downfall, and he wants to avoid negativity.
“I’ve never been a yell and scream-type guy,” he said. “I’ve always had an easy way as far as talking to guys. I really want a positive environment where guys are relaxed when they come here but they’re ready to play.”
Unlike Torre, who entertained reporters and visitors during batting practice, Mattingly still plans to throw to the players.
As Mattingly embarks on his first managerial gig, Torre remains a presence for him through phone calls every couple of weeks.
“Joe is always looking out for you,” he said. “The Godfather knows all.”