Much of the buzz around the Dodgers' offseason has been about their plans for the second base position.
The Dodgers elected not to resign All-Star Orlando Hudson but retain Ronnie Belliard, who essentially took the starting spot from Hudson. Los Angeles also acquired veteran utility-man Jamie Carroll.
"The thing we like is versatility," Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly said. "You look at Jamie Carroll and he's a guy that gives you all kinds of versatility. He can play second base, short stop, third base, and he's played the outfield at times."
He said Belliard brings the same type of versatility to the team.
"He can play second base, third, probably some first base, and the outfield," he said. "Both of these guys are experience guys that have been around that aren't going to complain if they're not play that day, knowing that they're getting older."
But that leaves out Blake DeWitt, a guy who competed for the starting spot early last season, but spent most of the season in the minors.
"DeWitt is a guy that we love," Mattingly said. "We felt like we kind of mistreated him last year. He's young, he's got a great attitude, he's got a good eye, he's a great hitter, and he gives us another left-handed bat. Everyone likes him and wants him a part of our club."
He said the team needs the versatility to give some of the older players like Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal some days off.
"The older guys do better with some days off," he said. "You need depth in the National League, too. You double-switch a lot, so you don't want to run out of players.
He said the team is hoping that someone will come out of spring training as the starter, but that all three will get plenty of playing time.
The Dodgers also elected to resign veteran starting pitcher Vicente Padilla and part ways with Jon Garland, a guy who made six appearances with the Dodgers last season.
This was a move to keep a veteran presence in the rotation, Mattingly said.
"We were worried about the depth of our starting pitching," he said. "We're young and still have a lot of guys developing."
The Dodgers' rotation has a lot of young talent in Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, as well as James McDonald and Ronald Belisario in the bullpen. But aside from Billingsley and Kershaw, much is still left uncertain.
"Those guys have had some success as well as some struggles," Mattingly said. "But we don't know who's going to come out with that fifth spot."
He said they didn't really want to have to go looking for two younger, less experienced pitchers to fill a spot when they could keep a veteran who had already had success with them and someone they could count on.
Padilla was 4-0 with a 3.20 earned run average in eight starts with the Dodgers, including a win in the NLDS against the Cardinals.
Mattingly said they didn't notice any of the problems that Padilla was rumored to have had with Texas last season.
"If a guy comes with us, and he's had trouble elsewhere, it's a new start for him," Mattingly said. "We try not to pre-judge and just see what have."
The Dodgers enter the 2010 season looking to win the National League West for the third straight year.
"Hopefully we're going to play well this season," Mattingly said. "Last year we had kind of a story book year. We got better but we need to keep getting better."
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