By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com | 2/12/2013 7:47 P.M. ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The new Dodgers ownership has demonstrated it will do things beyond the wildest imagination in the name of winning. But after welcoming pitchers and catchers to Spring Training on Tuesday, Don Mattingly said he’s not changing his approach to managing.
“I can’t say it will be a lot different,” said Mattingly, entering the third and final season of his contract. “Obviously, we’ve got eight starting pitchers, and that presents a different scenario. We’ve got the shortstop situation, that’s different. But I expected this club to play well the last two seasons, I expected the team to win last year and the year before. I believe in that.”
New owners have given Mattingly a deep and expensive roster, but no job security after rejecting his request to pick up a 2014 option. They made it known during an organizational meeting last year that along with the spending they’ve done on better players and stadium upgrades come responsibility and accountability.
“I’m not burying my head in the sand. I know people expect us to win, basically,” said Mattingly. “We’re in a division with the team San Francisco that’s won the world championship two of the last three years. Arizona has a good club, San Diego is good and Colorado has the chance to be good.
“All the expectations are just noise to me and the club, that we should win the Series and all that. My job and my staff’s job is to prepare the club to play the best it possibly can, and I can’t worry about the noise. The job doesn’t change.”
Meanwhile, general manager Ned Colletti, who put this loaded roster together with the help of Guggenheim Partners’ deep pockets, said bringing eight legit starting pitchers into camp is a lot better than bringing four. Or three. Or two. He said this roster is the best he’s had in eight seasons.
“We’ve had to mix and match as best we could some years,” Colletti said. “Now we’re in position where we’ve got a lot of talent on this club. But talent alone won’t win. It depends what you do with it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of players, and they are here today with a different excitement attached to this because of how special it can be and has become in less than a year. But we have to approach it better and think better, then we have to play and execute. That’s just sports. It doesn’t matter the payroll or how many All-Star Games you’ve played in.”
Mattingly took an understandable punt on his starting rotation, saying all eight will be used as starters until it’s necessary to whittle down the names while stretching out those remaining. He wouldn’t even guarantee which starters are in the rotation, although it surely will begin with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who give the Dodgers the Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale, Fernando Valenzuela-Orel Hershiser Cy Young Award tandem.
They didn’t commit $62 million for Korean star pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu to pitch in relief, and Mattingly said Josh Beckett doesn’t profile as a reliever, having made 304 starts and only three relief appearances. That leaves Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly for the final spot.
Billingsley’s elbow is a question mark to many, but not to Billingsley, who said he believes he’s dodged Tommy John surgery and ready to roll. If he’s right and he’s healthy, his six-game win streak last year was a reminder of what he can do. So the other three would be extras, although Lilly is coming off shoulder surgery and his health is also uncertain.
“It’s set up to be competitive,” said Mattingly, who won’t even need a fifth starter until nearly two weeks into the season because of off-days. “If we’ve got eight guys healthy, we’ve got tough decisions to make.”
Beyond the pitching, Mattingly said he still hopes Hanley Ramirez can handle shortstop and that Luis Cruz “earned the first shot” at third base. He plans to use Jerry Hairston as a backup at the corners — first and third base, and left and right field. Skip Schumaker will back up in center field and second base. Enigmatic Juan Uribe could also back up at the infield corners.
With 11 players coming off surgery and five leaving for the World Baseball Classic, there will be enough innings to test outfielders Yasiel Puig and Alex Castellanos, although neither figures to make the Opening day roster.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers. Five Filters recommends: Eyes Like Blank Discs – The Guardian’s Steven Poole On George Orwell’s Politics And The English Language.