Lopes to Concentrate on Kemp's Baserunning

The Dodgers' coaching staff is finalized, and while there are no surprises based on the various news reports that trickled out over the last six weeks, the best news for Dodgers fans comes from an agent. Former pitcher Dave Stewart, now an agent representing outfielder Matt Kemp, describes newly hired coach Davey Lopes as "his best friend" and trusts him immensely.

That's important because Lopes' No. 1 assignment is Kemp, and among Kemp's issues last year was a divide with the coaching staff.

Kemp snapped at bench coach Bob Schaefer in the dugout of a late June game, earning him a three-game benching. Third base coach Larry Bowa later criticized Kemp in a newspaper article, prompting Stewart to call out Schaefer and Bowa a few weeks later.

Schaefer, Bowa and first base coach Mariano Duncan are out. Trey Hillman (bench coach), Lopes (baserunning, first base) and Tim Wallach (third base) replace them. Jeff Pentland was promoted from new manager Don Mattingly's assistant hitting coach to the primary position. Dave Hansen takes over the assistant role.

Kemp was 34-for-42 in stealing bases in a 2009 season that included a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove award. Last year, he slumped to 19-for-34 stealing bases, appeared to frequently be guessing, and general manager Ned Colletti publicly criticized Kemp's baserunning and defense in late April.

Mattingly is turning over the entire running game to Lopes, just as the Phillies did the last four years.

"Everyone I've talked to about baserunning says this guy is the cream of the crop," Mattingly said. "I'm not going to be someone to hold this guy down."

Lopes managed the Brewers for two years and 16 games from 2000 to 2002. He had little talent, his winning percentage was .425, and he has no desire to manage again. He's eager to work his baserunning magic for the first organization he knew as a player.

"First of all, you've got to have talent," Lopes said. "There's a lot of talent on this ballclub. Two years ago, they could have gone to the World Series just as easily as we did. We -- I mean the Phillies -- just got the hit at the right time. Then the players have to buy into it. All they have to do is listen. If they do, I guarantee they'll be successful. It's 100 percent about reading keys, knowing tendencies. I was pretty successful as a player, and I was blessed in Philadelphia to be asked to control the running game. It worked well for us."

Lopes' career base-stealing percentage was 83 percent -- including 47-for-51 at age 40.

Stewart told Kemp he can trust Lopes. Kemp trusts Stewart immensely, so the Lopes-Kemp relationship is instantly rock solid. Kemp and Lopes have already talked, and they'll spend a lot more time in spring training together.

"It's a thrill to come back," Lopes said. "I started with L.A., and hopefully I'll finish with L.A. It's a great organization. Hopefully I'll help bring it back to where it wants to be with championships and a World Series. That's our goal."

--Non-Tendered: The Dodgers declined on Tuesday to offer arbitration to Type B free agents Vicente Padilla, Scott Podsednik and Rod Barajas. Padilla, 33, was 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 2010 in 16 starts for the Dodgers after going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts in 2009.

Padilla, a 12-year Major League veteran with a 104-90 lifetime record, agreed to a $4.025 million free-agent contract before the 2010 season with the Dodgers, with an additional $1 million in a deferred signing bonus.

Podsednik, 34, was acquired from the Royals on July 28. He declined a $2 million mutual option for 2010 to become a free agent after signing a $1.75 million free-agent deal with Kansas City.

The fleet left fielder batted .262 with a .313 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage in 39 games with the Dodgers after batting .310 for the Royals in 95 games.

Podsednik, who has played for six clubs in 10 big league seasons, is a .279 career hitter with 301 steals and 544 runs scored in 1,016 games.

Barajas, 35, batted .297 with a .361 OBP and .578 slugging percentage in 25 games after coming to the Dodgers from the Mets in an Aug. 22 waiver deal. He earned $500,000 in 2010.

A 12-year Major League veteran, Barajas is a .239 career hitter with 109 home runs and 402 RBIs in 912 games.

The Dodgers will receive no compensation in Draft choices if Padilla, Podsednik and Barjas sign with other clubs. A Type B free agent yields a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds if he is offered arbitration, declines and signs elsewhere.

--LHP Dana Eveland was signed to a split majors/minors contract. Eveland was acquired by the A's in the Dan Haren trade and posted a 4.34 ERA in 2008. Since then, he's bounced from the A's to the Blue Jays and Pirates, the rotation and the bullpen, and the majors and minors. His ERA in the majors last year was 6.79.

--RHP Oscar Villarreal was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Villarreal signed a two-year, $2.85 million contract after the 2007 season with the Astros but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008. His best year was 2006 in Atlanta, when he went 9-1 with 3.61 ERA in 92 1/3 mostly relief innings.

--LHP Kazuki Nishijima and RHP Kazuya Takano were signed to minor league contracts. Nishijima is a 21-year-old senior at Meiji University in Tokyo who posted a 1.91 ERA last year. He attended Yokohama High, the same as Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka. Takano is a senior at Buntoko High School in Kumamoto, Japan, and is the first Japanese high school player signed by the Dodgers.

--C Rod Barajas, RHP Vicente Padilla and OF Scott Podsednik were not offered arbitration by the Dodgers. But unlike previous years, this doesn't mean the Dodgers are cutting ties. This simply means the Dodgers won't get a second-round pick as compensation if they sign elsewhere. The Dodgers still have an interest in the players but will address other areas of their roster first and then come back to those three later.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda, who signed a one-year contract for $12 million ($8 million this year, and two $2 million signing bonuses paid over the next two years), said if he stayed in the United States, his preference was always the Dodgers because he loves the city of Los Angeles and his teammates. Kuroda told his agent he preferred a one-year contract because he always battles one season at a time.

--C Hector Gimenez was added to the 40-man roster. Gimenez posted an impressive slash line of .305/.384/.533 for Double-A Altoona in the Pirates organization. His progress was stalled by 2007 shoulder surgery.

--RHP Luis Vasquez was added to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. The 24-year-old Dominican native posted a 2.68 ERA and .173 opponents' average for low-A Great Lakes in the Dodgers organization last year.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Votes collected by Dodgers in all the various postseason awards. The only other team that didn't get even a single vote for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Manager of the Year or Rookie of the Year was the 97-loss Diamondbacks. The last time that happened to the Dodgers was 1998.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "These two amateur signings from Japan mean a lot to us. I am very excited to bring them into the organization. Choosing to play in the United States is not an easy decision for young foreign players to make with the language barrier and cultural differences, but I'm confident that both Nishijima and Takano will succeed in America with the help of our player development staff." -- Logan White, assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting, on signing two Japanese amateur pitchers, LHP Kazuki Nishijima and RHP Kazuya Takano.