Joe Torre said Saturday he has committed himself to a fourth year with the team, ending speculation about whether or not he will return in 2011. Torre’s current contract runs through the upcoming season, but talks are underway to extend his deal one more year. After 2011, the 69-year-old with four World Series titles as a manager said he would call it quits.
“Right now we’re just talking about the one year and what the number’s going to be,” Torre said, referring to what he will be paid in 2011.
When Torre originally signed with the Dodgers before the 2008 season there was a two-year offer on the table. But not wanting to be a lame duck manager after just one season in Los Angeles, he requested a third year.
Torre still intended on retiring after those first two seasons with the Dodgers.
“As it turns out, I’m still enjoying it,” he said. “But I’ve never been this age before. At some point you’re going to dread going to spring training and that day hasn’t come and I’m happy about that. It means I have the energy and feel good. Everything is good with me.”
Heading into his 29th season as a major-league manager, Torre has a career record of 2,246-1,915. His teams have reached the postseason 14 consecutive seasons, tying Atlanta’s Bobby Cox for the major-league record.
“When I first came over here I was just curious myself how I would like it,” Torre said. “I never anticipated after being in New York my first eight or nine years that I would go somewhere else and start over again. It’s been a great decision on my part to continue doing this because it’s been fun.”
General manager Ned Colletti has said there is no rush to finalizing Torre’s extension.
“I don’t have a deadline on it; that’s not a priority for me,” Torre said. “The priority now is spring training and putting the club together.”
Eric Gagne is pretty sure this is his last shot at a major league comeback. He’s glad to be getting it with the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I always wanted to come back. It was a matter of the timing,” Gagne said Saturday at spring training. “If I’m healthy and can throw the way I can throw, it shouldn’t be a problem to make the team.”
The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner rejoined the Dodgers when he agreed to a minor league contract Friday. He was given an invite to big league camp and will make $500,000 if he’s added to the 40-man roster. Another $500,000 is available in performance bonuses.
The reliever was the toast of Los Angeles when he converted a record 84 consecutive save chances, including all 55 during the 2003 season. He won the NL Cy Young Award that year and his lively entrances from the bullpen were a spectacle that managed to keep typically early-departing Dodgers fans in their seats.
On his first day back inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse Saturday, Gagne pulled on a fresh, blue cap and tugged at the bill. He said it was perfect.
He could have been referring to more than just the fit. The right-hander has pitched for three big league teams (Rangers, Red Sox and Brewers) since leaving the Dodgers after the 2006 season. But it was in Los Angeles where he became a star closer, and he said the Dodgers never left his heart.
“I had my best memories here,” Gagne said. “I wish I never left. I wish I stayed here. I never wanted to leave. I don’t know if you know about it, but in the minor leagues, they breed you to be a Dodger. That’s what I am.”
General manager Ned Colletti didn’t have to take much of a risk on Gagne with a minor league deal. And if it works out, the pitcher will be back in the Dodgers family.
“He was the face of this franchise for a while,” Colletti said. “We know how he competes and how strong that part of his game will always be. If he can transfer that into his stuff, who knows? We’re curious to see if he can reinvent himself.”
Gagne departed after elbow and back operations limited him to a combined 15 1-3 innings over the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In 2007, he was named in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
“There are a lot of regrets,” Gagne said, without confirming details in the report. “You have to accept it and just go on. You have to keep going and enjoy baseball. Get people out and get back to basics.”
The Mitchell Report said Gagne received human growth hormone in 2004. He apologized to Milwaukee teammates for “a distraction that shouldn’t be taking place” but didn’t directly address the allegation.
“I’ve said it 150 times—it’s always going to be on my resume for the rest of my life. People will second-guess everything I do, and if I have a good year they’ll all second-guess that,” he said Saturday. “That’s normal. I’m not expecting anything else. But for me, it’s over. I have to go on. I can talk about it every day, but it doesn’t matter. I still have to go out and pitch and perform.”
Looking much thinner than he was at his peak of 242 pounds during his Dodgers days, Gagne first said he’s probably seven pounds lighter. Later he amended that to 10-12 pounds lighter.
Gagne was released by the Brewers last spring and spent the year in his native Canada, rehabbing a slight tear in his shoulder while pitching in the independent Can-Am League.
Now, he figures this is his last chance to win a major league job.
“Health-wise, yeah,” Gagne said. “I’ve given it about a year and a half of just working hard and taking care of my body. If it doesn’t work out, I can’t take three years off and do it again. It gets to a point where you can’t keep rehabbing every year.”