Everybody is REALLY tightlipped on this thing, but this is what I was able to gather today, and what I just filed for tomorrow’s paper
By Tony Jackson
It now appears that there was at least some truth to an internet report earlier this week that the Dodgers are talking to former Florida manager Joe Girardi about a position with the club. But it doesn’t look like the Dodgers are trying to make Girardi their next manager.
Not yet, anyway.
According to multiple sources, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has been in contact with Girardi about what is expected to be an opening on the coaching staff. More specifically, Girardi potentially would become manager Grady Little’s bench coach if Girardi isn’t named manager of the New York Yankees. That would position Girardi as Little’s eventual successor, and the fact discussions with Girardi reportedly are taking place without Little’s involvement would seem to put Little in an awkward position if Girardi joins his staff.
For the second day in a row, Colletti didn’t respond to multiple phone messages left at his office. Steve Mandel, Girardi’s Chicago-based agent, also didn’t respond to a message left on his cell phone.
“The Dodgers won’t be making any news until after the World Series,” said Camille Johnston, the club’s senior vice president for communications, in adherence with commissioner Bud Selig’s edict that teams avoid upstaging the game’s premier event.
Girardi is one of three candidates, along with Don Mattingly and Tony Pena, to replace Joe Torre as Yankees manager. While Mattingly is the favorite because he is believed to be the top choice of owner George Steinbrenner and Steinbrenner’s sons, Hank and Hal, others in the Yankees front office are said to strongly prefer Girardi.
It isn’t clear whether the position with the Dodgers has reached the point of being a guaranteed fallback for Girardi if he doesn’t get the Yankees job.
On the surface, adding Girardi to the Dodgers staff would appear to instantly put Little on the hot seat next spring as he enters his third season at the helm. The Dodgers are coming off a disappointing 82-80 season and fourth-place finish in the National League West. Girardi and Colletti have known each other since at least 1989, when Girardi made his major-league debut as a catcher for Chicago while Colletti was the Cubs’ media-relations director.
Girardi was the N.L. Manager of the Year with the Marlins in 2006, his only previous season as a big-league manager, but he nevertheless was fired after that season because of a rift with owner Jeffrey Loria. Girardi, 43, is fiery and energetic. That is in stark contrast to the reserved Little, who didn’t seem to have a remedy for the clubhouse disharmony that bubbled to the surface late in the season and might have contributed to the team’s downfall.
Little, who is signed through next season with an option for 2009, went home to Pinehurst, N.C., shortly after the season to decide what changes he wanted to make on his staff. But almost a month into the offseason, there has been no word on those changes. Every member of the staff, whose contracts all expire on Dec. 31, was given permission after the season to seek jobs elsewhere, but that didn’t necessarily mean Colletti or Little wanted them to leave.
The Dodgers need a hitting coach to replace Bill Mueller, who is returning to the front office. Little also was believed to be strongly considering replacing bench coach Dave Jauss. Multiple sources said last week that Jauss was close to accepting a position with Pittsburgh, a claim Jauss later denied.
Roster moves: The Dodgers made a series of procedural moves on Friday that reduced their 40-man roster to 34 players. Right-hander Zach Hammes and catcher Chad Moeller cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Lefty Tim Hamulack, who started the season at Las Vegas but made just seven appearances before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, also was outrighted, but he refused the assignment and became a free agent.
Moeller, a six-year major-league veteran, also has the option of becoming a free agent.