Inside the Dodgers - January 19

The general assumption when the Dodgers signed Andruw Jones in December was that Jones would play center field, Juan Pierre would move to left and promising youngsters Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp would share time in right field unless or until one of them was traded. But the general assumption might have been way off base.

Manager Joe Torre seemed to hint during a rare recent visit to Dodger Stadium that Pierre's place in the everyday lineup is far from a guarantee. This despite the fact Pierre is entering the second season of a five-year, $44 million contract, and the fact he currently has the longest consecutive-games streak in the majors at 434.

"Andruw is obviously our center fielder," Torre said. "He anchors everything. Ethier, Kemp and Juan Pierre are competing for two spots out there. We'll just have to figure it out. I have had situations in the past where we had too many outfielders for three spots. The only thing (definite) is that we will start the season with our best option."

Pierre probably will play most of the time. The club still owes him $36.5 million through 2011, and he did steal 64 bases last season, the most by any Dodgers players in more than three decades. Without him in the lineup, the Dodgers would have little speed beyond shortstop and probable leadoff man Rafael Furcal.

But Pierre's streak still would appear to be in serious jeopardy. Both Ethier and Kemp are capable of hitting for power, while Pierre most assuredly isn't. And there certainly will be days when Torre will want to start an outfield of Ethier, Jones and Kemp.

Ethier and Kemp, each of whom has less than two years in the majors, have hit 24 and 17 career home runs, respectively. Pierre, who has been in the majors since 2000, has hit 12 -- including zero last season.

"I have managed players with (consecutive games) streaks before," Torre said. "In New York, I had Hideki Matsui (518). In Atlanta, I had Dale Murphy (740). I remember going to (then-Braves owner) Ted Turner's office one day and telling him I thought Dale Murphy would be better off not playing every game. Ted said he was playing every game, and that was that. But when it comes to streaks, it's something I would address with the individual player and try to gauge how important it is to the player."

Notes & Quotes
--RHP Yhency Brazoban, who missed most of the past two seasons because of surgeries to both his elbow and shoulder, avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility by agreeing to a one-year contract with a base salary of $540,000 and up to $120,000 in incentives.

--Scott Proctor also avoided arbitration by signing a $1.115 million contract, avoiding arbitration by settling on the exact midpoint between the numbers submitted by his agent ($1.3 million) and the club ($930,000).

--RHP Jason Schmidt remains on track with his rehabilitation program, and although he has yet to throw an official side session, he has thrown a handful of pitches from a mound here or there to gauge how his shoulder reacts to throwing at an incline. But while club officials remain hopeful Schmidt will be ready by Opening Day, trainer Stan Conte refused to put a timetable on the program because he isn't sure how Schmidt's shoulder would respond to each step in the process.

--CF Andruw Jones made a voluntary, one-day appearance at the Dodgers' recent winter development program, a two-week event set up primarily for 16 highly regarded prospects believed to be on the cusp of reaching the majors.

--INF Tony Abreu might have the early advantage in what is expected to be a spring training battle for the utility infielder's spot. His main competition, Chin-lung Hu, is one of the organization's prized prospects and thus probably will begin the season in the minors so he can play regularly.

--OF Jason Repko, who probably will battle Delwyn Young for the fifth outfield spot, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $487,500 contract on Jan. 18, the day eligible players and clubs were to exchange numbers.

--INF Wilson Valdez was removed from the 40-man roster when his contract was sold to the Kia Tigers of the Korean League.

--The Jackie Robinson Foundation celebrated its namesake's 89th birthday Thursday. Up next: the foundation's annual dinner, March 3 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

By the Numb3rs: 23 -- Combined home runs last season by Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who might have to share time in right field this year to make room for Juan Pierre in left and Andruw Jones in right. Pierre has 12 home runs in eight major league seasons, including none last year.

Quote to Note: "This season, I really want to start working on my changeup, start trying to perfect that and make it a pitch I can throw in any count. Overall, I need to throw more strikes. It will really help me if I attack the zone more and cut down on my walks. I need to really be aggressive and not have lapses in my concentration." -- LHP Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' top pitching prospect and first-round draft choice in 2006, who went a combined 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA at low Class A Great Lakes and Class AA Jacksonville last season. he struck out 163 batters in 122 innings while walking 67.

"The Dodgers are telling industry people that, having signed Andruw Jones and Hiroki Kuroda, they're tapped out, budgetwise." Newsweek.

Roster Report
The Dodgers went into the offseason looking for a middle-of-the-order bat and more pitching. They had added both by mid-December. Free agent CF Andruw Jones and RHP Hiroki Kuroda, a coveted Japanese import, both signed with Los Angeles.

Arrivals: OF Andruw Jones (free agent from Braves), RHP Hiroki Kuroda (free agent from Japan), C Gary Bennett (free agent from Cardinals).

Departures: LHP Randy Wolf (free agent, signed with Padres), LHP Mark Hendrickson (non-tendered free agent, signed with Marlins), INF Wilson Valdez (contract sold to Korean team).

Free Agents: OF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Roberto Hernandez, INF Shea Hillenbrand, C Mike Lieberthal, INF Ramon Martinez, INF Olmedo Saenz, RHP Rudy Seanez, INF Mark Sweeney, LHP David Wells. Saenz and Martinez struggled in 2007, which probably will 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. The Dodgers declined their option on Lieberthal.

Arbitration-Eligible: LHP Joe Beimel. 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, 30, took the Dodgers to a hearing last winter and lost, leaving him with a $912,500 contract for 2007. It was the club's first actual hearing since the Eric Gagné case in 2004, when Gagné lost and had to accept a $5 million deal rather than the $8 million he was seeking after he converted 55 consecutive save opportunities and won the National League Cy Young Award in 2003. Beimel filed at $2.15 million, with the club coming in at $1.7 million.

Other Teams: The Kansas City Royals have reached preliminary agreement on a one-year, guaranteed $3 million contract with former Dodger free-agent pitcher Brett Tomko, a baseball source said. The deal, which includes an additional $1.5 million in incentives, is contingent on Tomko's passing a physical exam.

*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. He will be ready for the start of spring training.

OF Jason Repko (left hamstring surgery in March 2007) missed all of the 2007 season. He was sidelined for a week in October in the Arizona Fall League due to a right ankle injury.

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