Reports: Don Mattingly to return in 2014.

Andre Ethier Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers in 2014, according to multiple reports. (Associated Press photo)

Even before a Source With Knowledge of Don Mattingly’s Situation anonymously confirmed that Don Mattingly’s situation looked good for 2014, it had come to this: The Dodgers doing anything less than picking up the team option on his contract would be a surprise.

Whether it was Ned Colletti or Stan Kasten or Mark Walter or Magic Johnson, anybody I spoke to recently about Mattingly’s performance was upbeat. Not tepid. Not cautious. Always positive, though always unwilling to go on the record about 2014 — anonymously or otherwise. (In fact, Kasten gave the Daily News a very cold shoulder — the New York Daily News — in a typical exchange about the subject yesterday.)

So it came as little surprise last night when reports surfaced that Mattingly is indeed coming back next year.

There’s still no mention of who will manage the Dodgers beyond next season. Maybe that hasn’t been decided yet.

There’s also an important, lingering question of when it was decided that Mattingly was still the right man for the job. What was the tipping point in the front office’s thought process? Johnson’s World-Series-Or-Bust attitude apparently didn’t apply to the manager, but was reaching the NLCS the minimum requirement for picking up Mattinglys option? The timing of Tuesday’s reports suggests it’s possible.

For now, we know that Mattingly doesn’t feel that he is managing for his job. That’s a significant vote of confidence. It means more than any platitudes issued through the media. It means Mattingly can relax enough to try to win a series, knowing his job doesn’t depend on it, in reality if not the court of public opinion.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.