Dodger Inside Pitch - October 21

Right-hander Jason Schmidt wasn't the difference-maker the Dodgers were hoping he'd be during the 2007 season. Neither was outfielder Juan Pierre, nor outfielder Luis Gonzalez. So what's the team's next move? Surprisingly, it came in mid-October and had nothing to do with on-field improvements.

   The Dodgers took a look back at the last time they won the World Series and found some common ground. No, they won't be bringing back right-hander Orel Hershiser to fill out the starting rotation, and Tommy Lasorda will remain in the front office.

   Instead, the Dodgers struck up a multiyear deal to have Los Angeles radio station KABC become their home -- again.

   KABC was the Dodgers' flagship station from 1973 to 1997, during which time the Dodgers won two championships and played in five World Series.

   "Listening to Dodger baseball on the radio has been a tradition in this city for half a century, and we believe we'll be able to serve our fans extremely well with this new agreement," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. "The Dodgers and KABC became synonymous during the '70s, '80s and '90s, and we're very excited to be bringing back a piece of Dodger history."

   John Davison, the president and station manager for KABC, didn't become a player in the Dodgers' radio sweepstakes until early September. By that point, the Dodgers had pulled a renewal offer to KFWB off of the table. KFWB had been the Dodgers' flagship station since 2003.

   Negotiations between the Dodgers and the old (and new) radio station took five weeks, a fraction of the time the Dodgers spent talking to other stations.

   "They were inches away from closing a deal with one of their other suitors," Davison said. "We entered the negotiations in the bottom of the ninth inning. We were late arrivals on the scene.

   "So much of life is all about timing. The timing just happened to be right for us and for the Dodgers."

   The station could turn out to be the perfect fit for the Dodgers. KABC is one of the more conservative talk-show stations in Los Angeles. If the Dodgers aren't able to acquire that big bat they've been looking for, they'll have to make do with their conservative approach to winning ballgames.

Notes and Quotes
   --INF Shea Hillenbrand opted to become a free agent after refusing to sign a minor league contract with the Dodgers. Hillenbrand was a late-season acquisition who batted .243 in 20 games.

   --2B Jeff Kent, who led the Dodgers with 20 home runs and a .303 batting average this year, is one of six players in contention to be selected as the best second baseman in L.A. Dodgers history. Other second basemen on the ballot are Charlie Neal, Jim Gilliam, Steve Sax, Jim Lefebvre and Davey Lopes.

   --C Russell Martin set a franchise record for stolen bases by a catcher (21). He batted .293 with 19 home runs and a team-high 87 RBIs.

   --INF Olmedo Saenz refused an outright assignment to the minor leagues and chose to become a free agent. Saenz was one of the more reliable pinch hitters for the Dodgers during the past few seasons, but that success tailed off in 2007, when he batted .191. The Dodgers offered Saenz a minor league contract as a way to make room on their 40-man roster.

   --RHP Roberto Hernandez didn't have to wait for the World Series to end before declaring for free agency. The veteran pitcher became a free agent after refusing a minor league contract offer by the Dodgers. Hernandez was acquired during the 2007 season to give some support to the bullpen, and he pitched 20 1/3 innings in 22 games. He ended the season with an 0-2 record and a 6.64 ERA for Los Angeles after going 3-1 with a 6.23 ERA for Cleveland.

By the Numb3rs-: $800 million -- The approximate amount the Dodgers have spent on free agent signings in the past 10 years. They've won one playoff game during that span.

Quote to Note: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I don't know." -- Dodgers OF Juan Pierre on the possibility of moving from center to left field next season.

Roster Report
   The Dodgers will go into the offseason singing a familiar tune. Whether the song has a happy ending remains to be seen.

   "Since I've been here, I've been singing the same refrain about a middle-of-the-order bat," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "Everybody in the league looks for pitching. We're no different. I think we're in a better spot than most clubs. But if you go back to last spring, everybody was saying we had eight starting pitchers. We needed 10. Eight wasn't near enough."

Biggest Needs: The Dodgers need a hitter who can reach the outfield walls and beyond. 2B Jeff Kent led the club with 20 home runs in 2007, which ranked last among home run leaders in the National League.

The free agent market will feature some heavy hitters, but most of them are in the outfielders. The Dodgers can create some space in their outfield, but only by trading some of their up-and-coming talent.

Free Agents: INF Olmedo Saenz, INF Ramon Martinez, OF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP David Wells, INF Mark Sweeney, RHP Rudy Seanez, INF Shea Hillenbrand.

   Saenz and Martinez struggled in 2007, which may lead to their departure from Los Angeles. That could lead the Dodgers to retain Sweeney, who is second on the all-time pinch-hit list.

Arbitration-Eligible: LHP Joe Beimel, LHP Mark Hendrickson, RHP Yhency Brazoban, RHP Scott Proctor, OF Jason Repko, RHP Chin-hui Tsao.

   Beimel lost his arbitration hearing last winter but is in a much better position to come out ahead should things go that way this offseason. Beimel cut his hand and was unable to play in the 2006 postseason for the Dodgers, but he appeared in 83 games this year, becoming one of the more reliable components in the bullpen.

In Limbo
: C Mike Lieberthal, OF Matt Kemp, LHP Randy Wolf.

   Lieberthal is waiting to see if the Dodgers will pick up his option for $1.4 million or buy out the contract for $100,000. Chad Moeller played during the final week of the season as a tryout to be the Dodgers' backup next season.

Rumors have it, if the Dodgers find the power they're looking for, and it happens to be in an outfielder, Kemp could find himself playing for another team next season.

Wolf is coming off of shoulder surgery, and though he would like to come back, he is waiting to see if the Dodgers will pick up his option (at $9 million).

*M*A*S*H* 4077 Report:
   INF Tony Abreu (sports hernia surgery in October 2007) will recover for six to eight weeks before re-engaging in baseball activities.

   SS Rafael Furcal (slightly bulging disk in back) missed the final two weeks of the 2007 season but won't need surgery for that or his sprained left ankle. Rest and rehabilitation should have him ready to go by spring training.

   RHP Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgery in June 2007) could begin a throwing program early in the offseason. Early indications were that he had healed from his surgery.

   OF Jason Repko (left hamstring surgery in March 2007) missed all of the 2007 season.

   LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (left elbow surgery in July 2007) had begun a rehab program before the end of the 2007 season.

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