Reports: Yankees sign Juan Rivera.

Juan RiveraJuan Rivera‘s days as a Dodger seemed over from the moment the final out of the season was recorded. The 34-year-old was a free agent and Ned Colletti already had a backup corner outfielder under contract in Jerry Hairston Jr. (and later, Skip Schumaker).

It became official Monday, with multiple reports out of New York that Rivera signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela 17 years ago.

In 109 games last season, Rivera batted .244 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs. It was a disappointing follow-up to his 62-game audition as a Dodger in 2011 (.274/.333/.406) in a year the Dodgers could have used him with injuries befalling Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and Shane Victorino, Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn Jr. doing little with their playing time.

The Dodgers purchased Rivera’s contract after he was designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays on July 12, 2011, then got a one-year $4 million contract after the season. The Dodgers chose to buy out Rivera’s contract for $500,000 rather than exercise his option for 2013.

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Daily Distractions: Monster cable bills, and a “Monster” lands in L.A.

Get ready for a higher cable bill.

That was one of many takeaways from yesterday’s news that the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable are on the verge of striking a local-cable rights pact that could be in the neighborhood of $8 billion.

Time Warner Cable SportsUnder the deal, colleague Tom Hoffarth reports, “TWC would be the anchor of this new Dodger channel and provide plenty of cross promotion with its own TWC SportsNet and Deportes channels created specifically for the Lakers. But as TWC found out, there was plenty of pushback from distributors when it launched its two-channel package in October leading up to the start of the Lakers season – mostly because of the high-end $3.95 price tag per subscriber per month. DirecTV, for example, didn’t get on board with it until the middle of November. Dish Network has yet to sign on.”

Even if you don’t care for the Lakers, you probably know someone who does and had to sweat through the TWC SportsNet launch last fall. If that was you, are you ready for the same song-and-dance with the Dodgers next year?

Would you rather see the $8 billion price tag come down? Or are you happy that your owners might turn an approximate $6 billion profit less than one year after buying the team, knowing that might mean more flexibility to add payroll and upgrade Dodger Stadium?

Onto the links:

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Ten Dodgers become free agents.

The Dodgers declined to exercise the 2013 club options on Todd Coffey, Juan Rivera and Matt Treanor.

They join another seven players who became free agents today: Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, Jamey Wright, Joe Blanton, Adam Kennedy and Bobby Abreu.

In other words, no big names or surprises for the Dodgers on the first day of free agency. Players can only sign with new teams beginning at 9 p.m. Friday. Between now and then, the Dodgers can re-sign any of their in-house free agents, and they’ve already opened discussions with League’s representatives.

General manager Ned Colletti said that he would like to bring back Choate and Wright, as well, to keep intact a bullpen that finished the 2012 season strong.

Coffey, Rivera and Treanor now fall into the category of Victorino, Kennedy and Abreu: highly unlikely to be on the roster next season.

Blanton is an interesting case. The Dodgers gave him what amounted to a 10-start audition in August and September. In five starts at home, the 31-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Not bad. In five road starts he was 1-3, 6.51. Bad.

I guess that makes Blanton a “known quantity” for a team that is looking to add a starting pitcher. But looking at a free-agent market that now includes Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse  and Hiroki Kuroda (another “known quantity”), the Dodgers probably figure they can do better.

The hot stove is just warming up.

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No extra playing time for Bobby Abreu, but no retirement, either.

Bobby Abreu‘s first career pinch-hit home run provided the final two runs of the Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. After the game, manager Don Mattingly was asked if he’d do more to get Abreu into the lineup.

With Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier all healthy? No.

But there’s something to be said for the fourth act of Abreu’s season. Let’s call Act 1 “Anaheim,” Act 2 “Starter for the Dodgers,” Act 3 “Albuquerque” and Act 4 “Pinch hitter.” All 19 of Abreu’s plate appearances in September have come as a pinch-hitter. Add in his last four at-bats in July before the Dodgers designated him for assignment, and Abreu has made 23 straight plate appearances as a pinch hitter.

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Kemp likely headed for DL again.

Thanks to his refreshing honesty in an impromptu media scrum after Wednesday’s game, Matt Kemp didn’t leave Dodger fans with much guesswork regarding his latest injury. The remaining details will be revealed in an MRI scan on his left hamstring tomorrow.

Kemp re-aggravated the same injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In the first at-bat of the game, Kemp singled off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. Andre Ethier followed that up with an RBI double, sending Kemp all the way home from first base.

Kemp said he was “pretty much close to third base” when he felt pain “grab” the lower part of his left hamstring — the same area he hurt before going on the DL from May 14-29. In an act of frustration, Kemp slammed a baseball bat over his knee in the Dodgers’ dugout before leaving down the tunnel leading into the team clubhouse.

Asked directly if he expects to go on the disabled list, Kemp said, “I would think so. It feels worse than the first time.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly agreed.

“It looks like it’s a pretty good chance,” he said.
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