Source says McCourt targeting Gillick for GM

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, speaking at a news conference Saturday, formally announced the firing of general manager Paul DePodesta. McCourt offered no details other than to say, "Our high expectations were not met. I like Paul. He has many positive attributes. It was difficult, but at the end of the day, that's my job, to make difficult decisions."

The Dodgers won the NL West title in his first season, but DePodesta riled fans by trading popular catcher Paul Lo Duca and two other players at midseason, then after DePodesta made many offseason changes, the club finished 71-91 in 2005, the second worst record since the team moved to L.A. in 1958.

McCourt called the three finalists DePodesta had identified for the manager's job -- Orel Hershiser, Dodgers player development director Terry Collins and former Detroit manager Alan Trammell -- to tell them that search, which has been on-going since Jim Tracy left on Oct. 3 in what was termed a "mutual agreement," was on hold until a general manager could be hired.

The team has been without a manager since Oct. 3, when the Dodgers and Jim Tracy agreed to cut ties. Tracy was hired shortly after to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Because a new GM traditionally is allowed to choose the next manager, the managerial search, which seemed near completion, could start again from scratch.

Former Dodgers outfielder Bobby Valentine, who last week managed the Chiba Lotte Marines to a four-game sweep of the Hanshin Tigers for the Japan Series title, is suddenly considered the front runner for the managerial slot.

Valentine, 55, is a longtime friend of Tom Lasorda, and previously managed the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, guiding the Mets to the National League wild card in 1999 and 2000 and the World Series in 2000.

McCourt wouldn't name possible GM candidates, but speculation is strong that he wants to at least talk to Pat Gillick, who put together consecutive World Series championship clubs in Toronto and playoff teams in Baltimore and Seattle.

Gillick was very interested in the job two winters ago, when McCourt had just bought the club, but he instead hired DePodesta to replace Dan Evans.

But a source with knowledge of the situation said that Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, now a special advisor to McCourt and seemingly McCourt's most trusted confidant, is a strong supporter of Gillick.

Lasorda said he was not interested in being either the GM or returning as manager.

Another possible successor is Texas pitching coach and Dodgers pitching legend Orel Hershiser, who was one of three finalists for the manager's job when DePodesta was conducting the search.

Hershiser had a formal interview for the managerial job, during dinner with McCourt and Lasorda. The Los Angeles Daily News said that McCourt actually told Paul DePodesta not to attend.

Hershiser has expressed the desire to one day be a general manager, but when reached by the Daily News, Hershiser said neither McCourt nor Lasorda specifically mentioned the GM job.

"It came up in general conversation," Hershiser said it had come up in general conversation but they didn't talk specifically about the job, only the manager's job.

Hershiser, 47, is talking with the Rangers about a contract extension as pitching coach, however his contract expires at midnight on Monday, making him a free agent and able to talk to the Dodgers about any job in their organization without getting permission from the Rangers.

Lasorda offered is opinion about the possibility of Hershiser becoming the GM at this time, saying, "I would think you would want to get somebody who knows the general manager's job. That's what I would look for if I were the club owner. I would get a guy with experience. It's not an easy job to walk into."

When asked if Hershiser was qualified for the job, he said, "He's not qualified because he has never done it."

That led to speculation that Hershiser might be hired as an assistant general manager in training while a veteran -- such as Gillick -- showed him the ins and outs of the job.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Atlanta Braves named Roger McDowell their pitching coach on Saturday, replacing Leo Mazzone. McDowell, who pitched for 12 years in the major leagues, was pitching coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate at Las Vegas the past two seasons.