Dodgers Interest in Picking Garland picks up

The market has been "heating up a little bit the last few days" for Jon Garland, his agent, Craig Landis, said on Friday. Garland, who was 14-8 with the Angels in 2008 and has won 106 Major League games at 29 without ever missing a start, is among the most desirable starting pitchers left in the marketplace.

The Dodgers, a team Garland rooted for while growing up in the San Fernando Valley and attending John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, are one of the clubs having discussed the right-hander with Landis.

"We're talking to a few teams, and there's a good chance we could have something in the next week or so," Landis said. "The Dodgers are one of those teams. Jon's from the area, grew up in Granada Hills and liked the Dodgers.

"They're a good, competitive club. They've expressed some interest, and we'll see where it goes from there. They like Jon, but they're looking at some other guys as well. There's definitely some interest in continuing to talk to them. The rest of it is economics and everything.

"I think it's a good fit. He's spent his career in the American League [with the White Sox and Angels], and Chicago [U.S. Cellular Field] is a hitter's park. I think he fits real well with the National League. He's an athletic guy who can run the bases, and he's a pretty good hitter. Dodger Stadium is a pretty good park to pitch in."

Landis, while admittedly a Garland fan, thinks the pitcher's numbers distinguish him as a durable, competitive, productive performer. "Not many pitchers have won more than 100 games before their 29th birthday," Landis said of Garland, who turned 29 on Sept. 27. "I'm convinced Jon will have between 200 and 250 wins at the end of his career.

--Jeff Kent's somber retirement announcement on Jan. 22 at Dodger Stadium, in which the notoriously gruff second baseman let down his guard and let the tears flow on several occasions, was a tad anti-climactic for Blake DeWitt.

The second-year major-leaguer had long known that the Dodgers' everyday second base job would be his beginning in 2009, as club officials had no intention of re-signing Kent even if he hadn't retired.

"It's obviously a great feeling," DeWitt said in a Los Angeles Times video blog. "But as a player, you can't let up for a second. You have to work even harder. There are no guarantees. Somebody is always fighting for your job, or you are fighting for their job. It is a never-ending process, and you can't ever let up."

Late last season, when Kent forced himself through an accelerated rehabilitation program to make it back in time for the final week and the playoffs after Sept. 2 surgery on his left knee, the veteran, despite being relegated to a backup role, made a point of helping DeWitt get comfortable at second base.

--Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, Ken Rosenthal of FOX and Mark Sheldon of MLB.com have all reported that the Dodgers, seeking to replenish their rotation, have the inside track on signing free-agent left-hander Randy Wolf.

  The Dodgers, after losing righties Derek Lowe and Brad Penny to free agency, would be returning to their recent past if they added Wolf, who pitched for the club in 2007.

  The Astros sought to retain Wolf, but he rejected their three-year, $28.5 million offer, according to sources. He is not expected to command nearly as much from the Dodgers.

Wolf, 32, was with the Dodgers in 2007, and went 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in July. He then signed with the Padres as a free agent. But he didn't return to form until getting traded to the Astros, going 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 12 starts. A 10-year veteran, Wolf is 90-78 lifetime with a 4.26 ERA.

The Dodgers also have interest in relievers Dennys Reyes, Russ Springer and Luis Ayala.

--Good news came in from from Arizona that said Chad Billingsley is still hopeful he'll be ready for Spring Training. This, of course, was in doubt when Billingsley slipped and fell on ice outside his Reading, Pa., home and suffered a spiral fracture of the fibula in his left leg, which required surgery to put in a plate.

But after months of work with Dodgers strength coach Brendon Huttmann, the 24-year-old right-hander is showing no evidence of a limp, pain or stiffness in his left landing leg, which he says feels normal.

Billingsley has been running on a treadmill without any problems and also is throwing from 120 feet with plans to throw every day. He is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time on Feb. 3.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract with a $1,825,000 base salary. Broxton, slated to take over as the Dodgers' closer this season following the departure of free agent Takashi Saito, can get an additional $50,000 for each of 45, 50, 55 and 60 games finished. He made $454,000 last year.

--C Russell Martin, in his first year of arbitration-eligibility, also agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The two-time All-Star will receive $3.9 million, a raise of almost 700 percent over his 2008 salary of $500,000. Martin was a "Super-2" player and thus won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season.

--OF Jason Repko avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal that will give him a modest raise of $12,500 to $500,000, plus the same incentives he had last year, $25,000 for 100 plate appearances and $50,000 for each of 150, 250 and 350 plate appearances. Repko is in the strange position of being a four-plus arbitration-eligible player who has two minor league options left, and he doesn't appear to fit into the club's plans, especially if the Dodgers re-sign Manny Ramirez. Repko's agent, Dan Lozano, said recently that both he and Repko have been trying for two years to convince the Dodgers to trade Repko.

--OF Andre Ethier is the only one of the Dodgers' four arbitration-eligible players who didn't agree to terms before players and clubs exchanged salary figures. Ethier, who batted .305 with 38 doubles, 20 homers and 77 RBIs last year, is seeking $3.75 million, while the club filed at $2.65 million. Ethier received $424,500 last year.

--The Braves have hired Jim Powell for their radio-broadcast team and are working to bring back former Dodgers Hall of Famer Don Sutton to be his new partner, according to several people familiar with the negotiations. Sutton is still under contract with the Washington Nationals, where he's spent the past two seasons. The Braves were trying to reach a settlement to permit him to return to Atlanta, where he worked 18 seasons as a Braves television broadcaster through 2006.

--New Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus said he will wear No. 12, the number previously worn by former Astros teammate Jeff Kent, who will announce his retirement today. "I'm going to make him proud," Ausmus said. -- Houston Chronicle

By The Numb3rs: 351 -- Career home runs as a second baseman by Jeff Kent, the most ever by a player at that position. Kent hit a total of 377 home runs in his 17 big-league seasons. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is second on the homer list among second basemen with 277. Kent also leads all second baseman in 100-RBI seasons, having driven in at least that many eight times. He barely missed doing it in 2003, when he drove in 93 runs while missing 23 games with an injury.

Quote to Note: "I know it's a cliche, but this guy gave 100 percent every time he walked onto the field. Whether he was hurt, banged up, no matter what the situation, that didn't mean anything to him. That is what impressed me so much when I first saw him in 1997, and it never changed through his last game in Los Angeles." -- Dodgers trainer Stan Conte, who served in the same capacity for the Giants during Jeff Kent's six-year stint in San Francisco.

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