Orel May Have Jumped to the Front of the Race

The Dodgers asked and have received permission to speak to Texas pitching coach and former Los Angeles ace Orel Hershiser about the club's vacant managerial position. General Manager Paul DePodesta spoke with Rangers general manager Jon Daniels earlier this week and according to sources, Daniels wants to know soon if Hershiser is going to return to Texas next season.

DePodesta had named four candidates to replace Tracy: Dodger minor league field manager and former Astros and Angels manager Terry Collins, last seasons Las Vegas manager and former Brewers manager Jerry Royster, former Tigers manager Alan Trammell and Torey Lovullo, who is managing in the Cleveland Indians farm system. All have been interviewed in person.

The field apparently did not evoke much excitement in the Los Angeles area.

About the same time, Oakland general manager Billy Beane started interviewing managerial candidates and Hershiser was contacted twice by phone.

Beane was impressed and although he rehired his former manager, it was apparent that Hershiser had become a serious candidate.

Beane recommended Hershiser to DePodesta, his former assistant, and recently DePodesta announced that he was expanding his search to include those with ties to the great Dodgers' tradition, naming Kirk Gibson and Rick Dempsey along with Hershiser.

The Dodgers are apparently debating if they should consider Hershiser, who has never managed before.

Texas needs to know who their pitching coach will be next year and as insurance, they kept bullpen coach Mark Connor when the Atlanta Braves asked to interview him.

Hershiser, 47, is a key figure in the Dodgers' history. He pitched a major-league record 59 consecutive scoreless innings for them late in 1988 before winning two games in the World Series, a five-game victory over Oakland.

Hershiser pitched for the Dodgers from 1983-94, recording 134 victories, seventh on the Los Angeles charts, then finished his career with a brief return stint in 2000. He has made no secret of his interest in managing the Dodgers.

Hershiser is a household name in the Los Angeles area and has strong support among the fans, hiring him would be a major PR boost for a franchise that been battered during last season.

Sources say the Dodgers were close to hiring Collins before all this developed, although former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is a former Dodger and a personal favorite of Tommy Lasorda. Valentine is managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japanese playoffs.

DePodesta, who has been the Dodgers' general manager for two years and has come under some criticism after they lost 91 games this season, needs to get this one right.

A Dodgers spokesman said there was nothing new on the club's managerial search, which has been going on since the departure of Jim Tracy on Oct. 3 and apparently won't conclude until after the World Series.

Guzman to play third--Shortstop Joel Guzman, the Dodgers' 2004 minor league player of the year, will play third base this winter in the Dominican winter league for the Estrellas de Oriente.

Terry Collins, the Dodgers' director of player development, said the move was requested by the Estrellas to make room for Texas' shortstop Joaquin Arias.

Guzman, a 6-foot-6 player who played some third base this year at Class AA Jacksonville, could end up competing for a job at the hot corner or in one of the corner outfield spots sometime next year or in 2007.

Bad Start for Perez--Left-hander Odalis Perez, who was bothered by an assortment of injuries in 2005, lasted just 1.1 innings and gave up five runs in his Dominican winter league debut for Escogido. Perez was 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 19 starts for LA.

McDowell interviews-- The Dodgers have granted Seattle permission to interview Roger McDowell, pitching coach for Las Vegas, for the Mariners' vacant pitching coach position.

McDowell, who posted 159 saves in a 12-year major-league career that included four seasons with the Dodgers, just completed his second season as the 51s pitching coach.

Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn had been a strong candidate for the Mariners job before he decided to join former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy in Pittsburgh.