Mientkiewicz Hopes For Health in 2010

Doug Mientkiewicz would run through a wall if Dodgers manager Joe Torre asked, which explains why the veteran was invited back to make the club one more time. Mientkiewicz headed a recent list of veterans invited to spring training by the Dodgers on a non-roster deal. And while his opening-day roster spot with the Dodgers was a surprise in 2009, it won't be as far-fetched this time around.

Mientkiewicz should not have made in on the 2009 roster, but his determination won him a spot. The Dodgers didn't need a backup first baseman or a left-handed bat off the bench, but his play last March forced the Dodgers' hand.

In 2010, the Dodgers not only need a left-handed pinch hitter, they have nobody to back up starter James Loney at first. On top of that, after loading the bench in 2009 with a number of veterans like Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and Juan Pierre, there isn't as much experience around now.

Mientkiewicz, known for his off-center personality, could actually supply the Dodgers with a voice of reason.

His feel-good story last season fell apart early. Two weeks into the season, he separated his shoulder on an awkward slide into second base and was distraught when told his season was likely finished.

Determined to make it back to action, he powered his way through rehabilitation, and on Sept. 2, in the first at-bat of his return, he singled. After being lifted for a pinch runner, Mientkiewicz later admitted he found a quiet spot in the clubhouse and cried.

He shouldn't have as many tears of joy if he makes the roster in April. It's expected this time.

NOTES, QUOTES
--INF Jamey Carroll does not have a charitable contributions clause in his contract nearly a year after Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said all future player contracts would have one. Manny Ramirez's contract, signed last spring, had an agreement that $1 million of his deal would go to a team charity. The players union has a pending grievance over deals including money earmarked for a team charity.

--Manager Joe Torre was in discussions to extend his contract through the 2011 season, according to team president Dennis Mannion. Torre's original three-year deal with the Dodgers expires at the end of the 2010 season. The veteran manager said as late as October that he expected 2010 to be his final season.

--RHP James McDonald didn't do a whole lot in the Dominican winter league to make himself a leading candidate for a starting job in 2010. McDonald went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in seven outings (five starts). In his last appearance, a start on Dec. 16, he gave up four runs on three hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings.

--RHP Jon Link looks like a solid bet to make the Dodgers bullpen out of spring training. As one of two pitchers acquired from the White Sox in exchange for OF Juan Pierre, Link figures to be the first to reach Los Angeles. He went 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 15 outings during the Venezuelan winter league, where he had seven saves in eight chances.

--OF Trayvon Robinson, recently placed on the 40-man roster by the Dodgers, hails from Crenshaw High School, the same Los Angeles school that produced former major-leaguers Chris Brown, Darryl Strawberry and Ellis Valentine. After being named the fastest runner in the organization in both 2005 and 2006, Robinson made the transition to switch-hitting in 2007.

BY THE NUMBERS: 37 - Regular-season hits from Rafael Furcal after Sept. 1, tops on the Dodgers. The 32-year-old shortstop struggled to a .269 average in 2009, the worst of his 10-year career, but batted .330 over the final month and change.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "(GM) Ned (Colletti) has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned's ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we've been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue." -- Team president Dennis Mannion, when asked by the Los Angeles Times to explain to fans why the Dodgers were not bidders for top free agents this winter.