|Joe Torre makes managerial debut for Los Angeles Dodgers against San Francisco Giants|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 30 March 2008 14:08|
Joe Torre makes his managerial debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants play their first game without Barry Bonds on the roster since 1992 when the longtime rivals meet Monday to open the season.
The 67-year-old Torre managed the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances including four World Series championships before rejecting an offer to continue on the job last fall. He joined the Dodgers two weeks later, signing a $13 million, three-year contract.
``I'll be excited. When I stop getting excited, I should be doing something else,'' Torre said Sunday. ``It never gets old. I think we're about as ready as we can be, considering everything around us. We're going to be as good as our pitching allows us to be.''
With opening-day starter Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda in the rotation, that could be pretty good.
``I like our chances,'' said center fielder Andruw Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner with the Atlanta Braves brought in by the Dodgers during the offseason to provide power and defense. ``Everybody wants to start in a good place. I want to win, help get this team in contention for a championship.''
That hasn't happened since the Dodgers won the 1988 World Series. They've made the playoffs only four times since then, and failed to advance past the first round each time.
``To me, a ballclub pretty much establishes a personality by June,'' Torre said. ``By that time, hopefully we'll have gained enough confidence to be a force. I think we can do that.''
There are issues, especially at third base. Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu - the first three options at that position entering spring training - will start the season on the disabled list. That means the job goes to 22-year-old Blake DeWitt for the time being, barring a roster addition. DeWitt has never played above Double A.
The Giants decided late last season they wouldn't bring the 43-year-old Bonds back for a 16th year in San Francisco. Baseball's single-season and career home run leader still hasn't landed another job.
``They wanted to go in a different direction,'' said Dodgers' pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney, who played with the Giants for nearly two years before being traded to Los Angeles last August. ``Barry was a good teammate; I think a lot of people over there would say that. I wouldn't characterize us as good friends, but the respect was there. And he loves the game.
`It's a different era in Giants' baseball. I'm sure they're looking forward to moving on. I always take this perspective: I'll never know what it's like to be Barry Bonds. That's not an excuse, that's the truth. He signed up for it, he's that good. He was always good to me.''
While the Dodgers appear to be one of four contenders in the rugged NL West as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their move west from Brooklyn, much less is expected from the Giants. That being the case, manager Bruce Bochy said a successful start to the season would be a big help.
``It's important for the psyche and the ballclub because we have had a lot of changes,'' Bochy said. ``And if we can win some games early, it would send a huge sense of confidence through our ballclub. Not that they don't have it. But it would instill the fact that we can win games.''
Regarding Bonds, Bochy said: ``He's not here, there's really no point in talking about Barry. I enjoyed my year with him and he did all that I asked him to do. We've moved on as he has. And we're going to get ready for the season. We're getting younger and we put these guys through a lot this spring and we'll see some results.''
While Penny is making his first opening-day start, Zito got the assignment for the fourth straight year - two with Oakland and two with the Giants.
``It's an honor to be on the mound,'' he said. ``I grew up in San Diego, but obviously Dodger Stadium is a great park with a lot of history. It's an important game and I'm there to give my team a chance to win and bow my head.''
The Giants and Dodgers are opening-day opponents for the 29th time since 1900, with the Giants holding a 15-12-1 lead. The teams played the first big-league game on the West Coast on April 15, 1958 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, with the Giants winning 8-0.