Dodger Inside Report - February 7, 2008

Veteran catcher Mike Lieberthal, a two-time All-Star with Philadelphia who spent last season as Russell Martin's seldom-used backup with the Dodgers, said he decided to retire shortly after the Dodgers declined to pick up his $1.5 million contract option for 2008.

Lieberthal didn't make his decision public until Jan. 26, telling reporters just before a charity celebrity soccer match hosted by Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra and his wife, soccer star Mia Hamm, in which Lieberthal was playing.  

"I'm done," Lieberthal said. "I decided a couple of weeks after the season ended. If (the Dodgers) had picked up my option, I probably would have played one more year. But I didn't want to go anywhere else."  

Lieberthal, 36, grew up in Westlake Village, Calif., just a few miles from Dodger Stadium, and still lives there. His wife, Kelly, is three months pregnant with the couple's first child.  

Lieberthal spent 14 seasons in the majors, all but one of them with Philadelphia, and for most of that time he was the Phillies' everyday starter. He joined the Dodgers as a free agent last winter, signing a one-year, $1.25 million contract, and knew at the time he would be Martin's backup.  

What Lieberthal didn't know was that he would start just 17 games behind the plate, a result of Martin's durability and then-manager Grady Little's reluctance to remove Martin's bat from the lineup because the Dodgers struggled offensively all season.  

Notes and Quotes
--LHP Joe Beimel avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1,925,000 contract. The salary is midway between his request ($2.15 million) and the Dodgers' offer ($1.7 million).  

Beimel took the club to a hearing last winter and lost, leaving him with a $912,500 salary for 2007 after he had sought $1.25 million. Among the factors the club used against him in that hearing was the fact he had been unavailable during the previous season's first-round playoff loss to the Mets because he had cut his hand on a broken glass while drinking in a Manhattan bar two nights before the series opener.  

Shortly thereafter, a contrite Beimel gave up drinking completely, and he was a model citizen throughout the 2007 season, when he appeared in a career-high 83 games and had a 3.88 ERA.  

--LHP Tom Martin, 37, an 11-year major league veteran who pitched for the Dodgers in 2003-04, rejoined the club on a minor league contract. He was invited to big-league camp and will compete for a spot in the bullpen. He spent the past two seasons with Colorado, but because of an injury, he didn't pitch after last July 19.  

--RHP D.J. Houlton's contract was sold to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks after three seasons in the Dodgers organization. Houlton was taken from Houston in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, then spent all of 2005 in the majors at a time when he clearly wasn't ready. He never really recovered from the experience and spent all of 2006 at Class AAA Las Vegas before getting called up three times and making 18 serviceable relief appearances in 2007.  

--INF Jose Vizcaino, who retired last winter after 18 big-league seasons, joined the club as a special assistant to general manager Ned Colletti. Vizcaino originally came up with the Dodgers in 1989, a product of the club's legendary program in the Dominican Republic, then did a second stint with the Dodgers from 1998-2000.  

--INF Ramon Martinez, whose career appeared to have stalled when he hit just .194 in 67 games last year, re-signed with the Dodgers as a free agent. But this time, he had to settle for a minor league deal after the club declined his $1 million option. He will compete in spring training with Tony Abreu and Chin-lung Hu for what probably will be two utility infield spots.  

--3B Nomar Garciaparra said before his recent charity soccer match that he was fine with having to compete with rookie Andy LaRoche for the starting job. Garciaparra said he has approached spring training every season of his career as if he were competing for a job, a claim that seems rather dubious given that he was one of the game's biggest stars while with Boston.  

--RHP Rudy Seanez signed a $550,000 contract with incentives that could bring his salary up to $750,000. The right-hander was 6-3 with a 3.79 ERA and one save in 73 games last season. He filed for free agency after the World Series.  

--The Dodgers' relationship with the Dominican Republic dates back to 1987, when the club opened the first baseball academy on the island, so it should come as no surprise that Los Angeles director of Minor League operations Luchy Guerra is in attendance at the Caribbean Series. A Dominican Republic native and surrogate mother to many of the young Latin players in the Dodgers system, Guerra has been anticipating the event for months. "This is awesome, with it being in my country," Guerra said. "What I really like is seeing the variety of Minor Leaguers that have come through our hands. I try to keep up with all of these kids who are all over. We probably have 10 guys who were with the Dodgers at one point here."  

By the Numb3rs: 33 -- Pitchers the Dodgers will have in spring training, including a list of a dozen non-roster invitees that includes several major league veterans. The large number was made somewhat necessary by the fact the team will be split up for a two-game trip to China. But that won't necessarily offset the difficulty in getting enough innings for all those pitchers -- or giving those trying to make the team enough of a chance to impress -- because the Dodgers will play just two games in Beijing and have only three split-squad dates on their schedule.  

Quote to Note: "For obvious reasons, last year was just a tainted situation. This one wasn't easy, either. There were a lot of issues to cover and some big gaps to deal with. It took a lot of time and effort, but it worked out." Agent Joe Sroba, speaking to the Los Angeles Daily News about the difference in arbitration years for his client, LHP Joe Beimel.  

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), C Mike Lieberthal (retired), RHP D.J. Houlton (contract sold to Japanese team), OF Luis Gonzalez (free agent, signed with Marlins).

Remaining Free Agents: RHP Roberto Hernandez, INF Shea Hillenbrand, INF Olmedo Saenz, INF Mark Sweeney, LHP David Wells.  

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. The Dodgers declined their option on Lieberthal.  

In LimboIN LIMBO: With Jones manning the centerfield slot, the team has just two positions left for Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre. One of them could find himself playing for another team next season.  

*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. Playing well in Dominican World Series and will be ready for the start of spring training.  

RHP Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgery in June 2007) remains on target for a spring return.  

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.