Juan Pierre Meets the Press in Dodgertown

Outfielder Juan Pierre, normally one of the Dodgers' most media-friendly players, declined to speak with reporters when he stopped by the team's complex on Feb. 14 to drop off some belongings, promising that he would take questions when he officially reports Feb. 19. Pierre knew what he was going to be asked.

This winter's addition of free agent center fielder Andruw Jones will, at the very least, push Pierre to left field. Pierre can only hope it doesn't push him further than that. The plan for now is for promising young players Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp to share time in right field, with Pierre occasionally sitting to allow Ethier and Kemp to start together. But Torre now sounds as if he hasn't completely closed the door on Ethier supplanting Pierre as the regular left fielder.

"I talked to Juan during the offseason," Torre said. "Obviously, I couldn't make any promises because I'm not in a position to do that. When the season starts, I would like to think the people who are in the lineup will be the people we have our best shot with at that point in time. I think we'll have to wait and see."

   The fleet Pierre, who has no power whatsoever, has been widely criticized for his inability to draw walks or post a high on-base percentage as well as for his popgun throwing arm. But he also is entering his ninth major league season, while Ethier and Kemp barely have three years of major league service time between them.

   "I have always been fond of experience," Torre said. "A lot has to do with what each person brings to the table and what our needs are. Juan Pierre is a gamer. You realize over the years the type of players you feel will fit into a winning situation, and he is obviously that type of guy."

Where & When
First intrasquad game Tuesday, February 26 at Holman Stadium. The time is still to be determined. Some of the pitchers who will appear in the game are Brad Penny, Chan Ho Park and Hong-Chih Kuo.

First exhibition game at Dodgertown, Vero Beach Feb. 28 vs. Atlanta. The opener, a Thursday will feature Chad Billingsley and Jason Johnson.

First road exhibition game, Friday, February 29, with newcomer Hiroki Kuroda scheduled to make his spring debut at Disney World against the Braves in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN.

First game in China: Wukesong Stadium, Beijing March 15 vs. San Diego. Third base coach Mariano Duncan and bullpen coach Ken Howell will accompany Torre and the split squad that will play exhibitions on March 14 and 15. Bench coach Bob Schaefer, Bowa and Honeycutt will remain with the part of the team that will stay in Florida to be managed by former manager Tom Lasorda.

First exhibition games in Phoenix Municipal Stadium March 20 vs. Chicago White Sox.

Notes & Quotes:
--RHP Takashi Saito signed a one-year, $2 million contract with incentives that could pay him an additional $200,000. Although Saito is 38, he is like any other third-year big-leaguer in that the Dodgers held all the negotiating leverage. But because he is for all practical purposes a veteran and has saved 63 games the past two seasons, the club has made a point the past two winters of dealing with him at least somewhat fairly.

   --C Russell Martin won't catch as many games as he did last year (145) if new manager Joe Torre has anything to do with it. Torre said he would like to give Martin one game off a week, something Grady Little also wanted to do last year but couldn't afford to because he needed Martin's bat in the lineup.

   --RHP Jason Schmidt remains on track with his throwing program and is throwing all of his pitches. But club officials are still reticent to count on him for the season-opening rotation because of the possibility he could have a setback with his surgically repaired right shoulder. A recent bullpen at Dodgertown had a number of officials smiling.

   --LHP Greg Miller, who battled such wildness last summer that he was demoted from Class AAA Las Vegas to Class AA Jacksonville after walking 46 batters in 28 2/3 innings, believes his problems are behind him. The solution was a mechanical adjustment he made late last season that allows him to come more directly toward the plate. He worked one afternoon with Sandy Koufax and received some enlightening pointers.

   --INF Mark Sweeney was added to the 40-man roster when he was re-signed to a one-year contract. The roster is now full. --Manager Joe Torre, in a pre-workout media session, raved about new center fielder Andruw Jones, who has "raw ability," according to the new Dodger manager.  Torre said Jones could hit third, fourth, fifth or sixth in the lineup. 

By The Numb3rs: 61 -- Springs at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., for the Dodgers, who are expected to move next year to a new $80 million facility in Glendale, Ariz., that they would share with the Chicago White Sox. Vero Beach city officials are negotiating with the Baltimore Orioles, who have an outdated facility in Fort Lauderdale, to take over the Vero Beach site beginning next spring.

Quote to Note: "Last year with the Yankees, it looked like we were going to have too many starters for five slots, but we ended up using 10, 11, 12 starters by the time May came around. You never know what is going to happen. It would really be a problem if somebody looks around and decides they have no chance and suddenly stops competing. Then, when you need somebody during the season, they're not the one you want. I think the other way to look at it is we're giving them an opportunity to put on a uniform and get out there on the mound. Other clubs are always looking for pitching." -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre on the fact the Dodgers have more than a half-dozen major league veteran relievers in camp as non-roster players competing for what will be no more than one open spot in the bullpen if everyone stays healthy.

Quote to Note II-- In the ritual "State of Jeff Kent" address just before the first full workout of Spring Training, the Hall of Famer in waiting corrected what actually happened in the final weeks of the 2007 season. Kent was portrayed as being resentful toward the rookies on the team, but he made it clear that his frustration was about team results, not about a particular person or a movement. "Gentlemen, my frustration doesn't lie with anybody, they lie with wins and loses," Kent told a gathering writers in attendance. "You don't win and anybody that's not frustrated, they shouldn't be playing the game. My frustration was not with a player or management, and therein lies the frustration. You hope to build on your mistakes as a player and an organization. If you lean back and are complacent, you are not worthy of being a professional athlete." Most believe Kent will wind up in the Hall of Fame. He is a five-time All Star and the all-time leading home run hitter for second basemen. He led the club last year with 20 home runs and a .302 average. He is 27th on the all-time doubles list, 65th on the all-time home run list (365) and 52nd on the all-time RBI list.

We Can Never Forget
A story that has but a slight connection to the Dodgers but great reminder to all of us who are now living in relative peace, tells of the horrendous events in Europe just before and during World War II.

Doug Krikorian, writing in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, interviewed the parents of Steve Brener, a former publicity director for the Dodgers and co-owner of a prominent sports-oriented public relations firm called Brener Zwikel (with Toby Zwikel, who was also a Dodgers publicity director).

Minda and Murray Brener, now in their 80s survived the systematic slaughter of Jews in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

Brener's mother, Minda, a tiny gray-haired woman with alert brown eyes and a keen memory, was 20 in late May of 1944 when she and her parents, a brother and two sisters were forced to abandon their farm in Czechoslovakia and squeezed into a cattle car with other Jewish people on a train that took them to Auschwitz.

"I was skin and bones when they freed us," she told Krikorioan. "I don't think I weighed more than 50 pounds. I remember the first food we received were salted crackers and Spam."

Minda survived the infamous Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, as well as three other camps until, on May 8, 1945, the Russians showed up to liberate her and the others who were able to emerge alive from such a grisly ordeal.

Twenty-year-old Murray departed his native Poland in the fall of 1939 to get away from the conquering Germans and opted for the Russians, who promptly sent him to Siberia.

"It was the same as being in prison," he said. "I worked in a fertilizer factory. It was cold all the time. Long, long hours. The food wasn't good. The conditions were just terrible."

Both lost their entire family but somehow they survive, come to America and meet in Los Angeles through a friend, They would be married in 1950, an event that had seemed virtually impossible only a few years earlier.

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