A dozen years after he retired, Tom Lasorda is coming back to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In spring training, that is.
The 80-year-old Hall of Famer will guide a split squad of Dodgers for eight games in March while Joe Torre takes the other half to China for a two-game exhibition series.
``There is no one else in the game of baseball like Tommy Lasorda,'' Torre said Wednesday. ``He's excited about it. I thought it was a great idea. He's such a fan favorite. Knowing his enthusiasm for the game, I know he'll embrace it.''
Lasorda is ready to go.
``What a thrill this will be, not just to manage the games, but the thought behind it,'' he said. ``This really is a very, very special honor.''
This is the Dodgers' final spring training in Vero Beach, Fla., and Lasorda has long been a fixture at the camp. He usually rides around Dodgertown in a golf cart, chatting with fans and signing autographs, and his arrival at tiny Holman Stadium is often accompanied by ``Hail to the Chief'' playing on the sound system.
Lasorda managed the Dodgers for nearly 20 years before a heart attack hastened his retirement in 1996. He is now a special adviser to Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt.
Lasorda last managed in 2000, when he led the United States to a gold medal in the Sydney Olympics, beating the heavily favored Cuban national team in the championship game.
``I can't think of a more fitting tribute to a man who embodies the Dodger organization than to have him lead the team during our final week of games here in Vero Beach,'' Torre said.
Lasorda will manage the Dodgers from March 11-18 and work the team's final home game at Dodgertown. The team will move its spring training headquarters next year to Glendale, Ariz.
This is Lasorda's 59th season in the Dodgers organization, including time as a player, scout, minor league manager and major league coach. As the Dodgers manager, his teams were 1,599-1,493 and won two World Series, four NL pennants and eight division titles.
At Fort Myers, Fla., Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp is prepared to talk to Boston management about a trade if it appears he will not win back his starting job taken by rookie Jacoby Ellsbury in the postseason.
The 28-year-old Crisp started 145 games last year and played outstanding defense in his second season with Boston. But after hitting .182 in the first eight postseason games, he was replaced by the 24-year-old Ellsbury, who started the season at Double-A Portland.
``I would honestly rather be somewhere else and play than be on the bench,'' Crisp said. ``But I'll take whatever comes and deal with it and no knock against Boston. I love the fans. They treated me well.''
At Tampa, Fla., New York Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner wouldn't mind seeing some unrest in Boston's camp. He's not happy the Yankees are chasing the World Series champions.
``We'd rather be Darth Vader. Let them be the underdog,'' Steinbrenner said while watching his team work out.
The Yankees had their first full-squad workout under manager Joe Girardi. The Yankees have not had a manager other than Joe Torre since Buck Showalter in 1995.
``I missed him when we were running,'' Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. ``We didn't run that much before, so I missed him a little bit.''
At Viera, Fla., troubled prospect Elijah Dukes reported to Washington Nationals spring training and took questions during a hastily arranged and limited-in-scope news conference. It was the outfielder's first public comments since June, when he was dropped off the roster by Tampa Bay.
Dukes' long list of misdeeds - including arrests for assault and for marijuana possession, paternity suits, and a threatening phone call to his estranged wife - were deemed inappropriate topics by the team.
``I've been working on myself a long time, and I finally found a breakthrough,'' the 23-year-old Dukes said. ``And from now on, everybody gets a chance to really see (what) the real Elijah Dukes is like. I've always been working on it, it's just been issues of mine and I think now I finally tuned it up a bit so I can stay on the field the whole year.''
In December, the Nationals traded promising young pitcher Glenn Gibson for Dukes, who hit .190 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 2007.
At Bradenton, Fla., free-agent pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim agreed to a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates worth $850,000. The deal, which could earn Kim more than $1 million in performance bonuses, is pending a physical.
Kim, a 29-year-old right-hander from South Korea, spent 2007 with the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, going 10-8 with a 6.08 ERA in 28 appearances, including 22 starts.
General manager Neal Huntington said the team's interest in Kim is solely as a reliever.

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