Carrara, Wunsch are free agents

The Dodgers attempted to outright relievers Giovanni Carrara and Kelly Wunsch but each declined outright assignments to the minor leagues after clearing waivers. Although they are free agents, general manager Paul DePodesta said he still hopes to keep both of the veterans.

Carrara, who will be 38 next season, went 7-4 with a 3.93 ERA in a career-high 72 games this year and had a 1.15 ERA over his last 12 appearances. Wunsch, 33, tore his right ankle ligament, which required surgery. He later had surgery on his left hip; he finished the season with a 1-1 record and a 4.56.

Carrara and Wunsch, who each have five years of Major League service time, can sign with any club, including the Dodgers, without restrictions or qualifications. Carrara earned $600,000 in 2005, Wunsch $550,000. Both have expressed interest in re-signing with the Dodgers.

The moves were made to clear 40-man roster spots in advance of December's Rule 5 draft. Any player signed out of high school who has completed four full professional seasons and any player signed out of college who has completed three is subject to being lost to the Rule 5 draft unless they are protected on the 40-man roster before the Nov. 18 deadline.

Four such spots have been cleared by losing Carrara to free agency, losing catcher Mike Rose to a waiver claim by Tampa Bay and outrighting minor-league pitchers Ryan Ketchner and Derek Thompson. Wunsch was on the 60-day disabled list after season-ending ankle surgery suffered in Colorado in July.

Carrara and Wunsch were two of the Dodgers' five arbitration-eligible players, but the only way the Dodgers can retain them is by agreeing to new contract terms.

With the retirement of Wilson Alvarez, rookie Hong-Chih Kuo is in line to be the Dodgers' left-hand out of the bullpen. The only current Dodgers reliever over the age of 30 is Elmer Dessens, who will turn 35 in January.

Two of the other arbitration-eligibles are Milton Bradley, who probably will be traded or non-tendered; and Jason Phillips, whom the Dodgers will try to trade because he no longer has a place on the team with Dioner Navarro expected to be the everyday catcher and club officials are hoping to re-sign free agent Paul Bako as the backup.

That would leave Hee-Seop Choi as the Dodgers' only arbitration-eligible player this winter.

Collins the leading candidate--Terry Collins has emerged as the leading candidate to become manager, several high-level sources told the Los Angeles Times. Collins is said to have had the strongest resume of the six men who have been granted interviews and has gained the trust of General Manager Paul DePodesta in his role as director of player development.

"It takes a while to get to know Paul and there is no question that he and Terry get along well," a Dodger front-office source told The Times. "It gives Terry a big advantage."

Atlanta Brave batting coach Terry Pendleton will be interviewed Wednesday and DePodesta plans to talk to Kirk Gibson, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser. They are considered longshots.

Other opportunities might exist in the organization, though. DePodesta likes bringing former Dodger players into the fold, as he did last year with minor league coaches Dave Anderson and Steve Yeager.

Before making the hire, the Dodgers plan to bring back the top candidate or candidates to interview with owner Frank McCourt, who has said he will be "very involved" in the selection.

Dodger Blue Notes--Tim Wallach, who spent the past two seasons as hitting coach for the Dodgers is thought to be a candidate for that job with the Mariners. Wallach was not extended a coaching position after manager Jim Tracy joined the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this week as their manager. Wallach was said to be instrumental in helping Beltré have a career season with the Dodgers in 2004. That season, Beltré hit .334 with 48 home runs and 128 RBI. Wallach preached patience to Beltré, who cut down on his strikeouts and walked more. Wallach also got Beltré to hit to all fields â€" something many feel Beltré got away from this season in Seattle, where he hit .255 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI. …The Padres did not renew the contract of Davey Lopes, first base coach. …Former Dodger president Bob Graziano has joined Northern Trust as Managing Director, Western Region.

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