Dodger Rookie of the Year Coaching Chinese

Former Dodger All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 1965 and major league coach Jim Lefebvre been coaching the Chinese team in preparation for the World Baseball Classic in March. Lefevbre also played in Japan, managed the Mariners to their first winning season in 1990, and also managed both the Cubs and the Brewers.

After Beijing was chosen as the host city for the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese Baseball Association called Sandy Alderson in the commissioners office requesting help teaching their players how to play 'Major League style' baseball.

That was three years ago that Lefebvre got the unusual phone call, asking him to manage a baseball team on the other side of the world with no baseball tradition, and it took him a little time to think it over.

After checking with his family, Lefebvre called back and agreed to instruct the fledgling players in the fundamentals of the game and enlisting Bruce Hurst, who had pitched for 15 years in the majors for Boston, San Diego, Colorado and Texas, they began the task of starting a baseball program in China.

While the playing conditions are less than ideal, the talent pool is unlimited -- some 1.3 billion residents. After two weeks on the local Chinese baseball fields, Lefevbre got permission to move his club to the United States for workouts.

The Seattle Mariners invited them to their complex in Peoria, Arizona. The team returned to Arizona last January for two-a-day training sessions.

Team China returns to Phoenix on Jan. 24 to begin a month of preparation for the WBC at Scottsdale Community College. Lefebvre feels they will eventually become a major participant in worldwide events like the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March.

The WBC is another step along the way to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Lefebvre told, "In time, I really think it could become the No. 1 team sport in the country. And someday, China will be a world power in baseball."

Kent Undergoes Operation-- Dodger second baseman Jeff Kent will have surgery Tuesday to clean scar tissue from his right wrist and could sit out the first two to three weeks of spring training. Kent had surgery on his left wrist before spring training in 2000 in a controversial incident. He said the injury occurred while he was washing his truck, but speculation about a motorcycle accident lingers.

During a conference call General manager Ned Colletti said that the surgery "is more precautionary than anything else" and the 37-year-old Kent, who batted .289, hit 29 home runs and drove in 105 runs in his first season with the Dodgers, should be completely healed by the second week of March.

His baseball-related activities have not been effected by the pain and he can throw the ball and swing a bat but has had discomfort in non-baseball related activities.

"From what I have been told, nothing has been impaired and it's nothing more than a cleanup process. No surgery is minor, but when they tell you they are going in for a cleanup and Kent can still throw the ball and swing a bat, that's about as minor as it can be."

The Dream Weaver Front-- Colletti has not discussed signing free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver with his agent, Scott Boros recently and have until tomorrow night (Sunday) to sign him, If Weaver refuses, he can't re-sign with Los Angeles until May 1.

Weaver, who had a 14-11 record and 4.22 ERA in 34 starts last season, is represented by agent Scott Boros.

Weaver reportedly is seeking a four- or five-year deal worth about $10 million a year. The Dodgers don't want to commit to more than three years, and believe the asking price is too high.

There has been speculation that Weaver would accept a one-year deal and pursue free agency again next year. However, Colletti said he has not had any discussions with Boros about signing Weaver for one year.

Colletti said a three-way deal with the Red Sox and Athletics was not being considered. Apparently the Dodgers wanted 42-year-old David Wells but the deal would have called for a top minor league prospect and Colletti balked at that idea.

Money, Money Everywhere-- The Yankees topped all of Baseball last year with a $207 million salary, an item that was no surprise to anyone.

The figure is more than $90 million ahead of any other team, according to the commissioner's office.

Boston was second at $116.7 million, with the New York Mets third at $104 million, followed by the Los Angeles Angels ($97 million), Philadelphia ($94.8 million), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($87.8 million), St. Louis ($87.4 million) and Atlanta ($85.9 million).

The Chicago White Sox, who won the World Series for the first time since 1917, were 13th at $73.2 million. Houston, swept by the White Sox in the Astros' first Series appearance, was 12th at $76.2 million.

San Diego had the lowest payroll among the eight teams that made the postseason, 16th at $66.3 million. The Padres were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Cardinals.

At the other end, Tampa Bay had the lowest payroll at $26.6 million (just a tad over Alex Rodriguez's salary), with Pittsburgh at $30.1 million, Colorado at $32.5 million and Kansas City at $34.9 million.

The average salary was $2,349,394, a 5.5 percent increase from the 2004 average of $2,227,347. The players' association, in figures released last month, calculated the average at $2,479,125, a rise of 7.2 percent. The union and management differ in their treatment of signing bonuses and option buyouts.

San Francisco's Barry Bonds, on the disabled list from the start of the season until Sept. 12 following knee surgery, was second to Rodriguez's $25 million at $21.3 million, followed by Boston's Manny Ramirez ($19.9 million), the Yankees' Derek Jeter ($19.6 million) and Mike Mussina ($19 million), Baltimore's Sammy Sosa ($18.9 million) and Houston's Roger Clemens ($18 million), who at 43 led the major leagues with a career-best 1.87 ERA.

Timing is Everything-- Theo Epstein, speaking to Steve Silva of about the Dodger general manager vacancy last fall: "I looked at the Dodger job," Epstein said. "The GM job (was) there when I was available and that was an interesting opportunity but I thought it was too close to leaving the Red Sox to really jump in with both feet. ..."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Former Dodger infielder Mariano Duncan is expected to join Manager Grady Little's coaching staff. Duncan was the hitting coach for the Dodger triple-A Las Vegas affiliate last season and the hitting coach for the double-A Jacksonville affiliate in 2004. He also has coached at the Dodger academy in the Dominican Republic. …The Dodgers are seeking a veteran right-handed relief pitcher to replace Giovanni Carrara and have inquired about free agent Julian Tavarez. Tavarez, who will be 33 in August, was 3-2 with a ERA of 3.43 with the Cardinals last season. Over the last three years he has appeared in 64, 77 and 74 games.