NEW YORK (AP) - Joe Torre thinks there's a chance Alex Rodriguez could join him in Los Angeles, and the new Dodgers manager sure sounded hopeful.
``It's possible,'' Torre said Friday, repeating that phrase twice as a small grin crept across his face. ``You've got four or five clubs maybe that figure to be in the sweepstakes. There aren't a lot of clubs that are going to be able to pay the money.''
Torre walked away from the New York Yankees after 12 seasons as manager last month when they offered him a one-year contract with a paycut. Rodriguez also cut ties with the club, opting out of his $252 million, 10-year contract during Game 4 of the World Series and becoming the biggest prize on the free-agent market.
Now, some think the Dodgers could be a front-runner to land A-Rod, likely to win his third MVP award this month. Torre confirmed the two had a better relationship this season in New York.
``All I know is it was very comfortable for both of us,'' the manager said. ``And I think my being uncomfortable came from the fact that I didn't think he was as comfortable. This year he just seemed to be a different guy in spring training.''
Speaking before his Safe at Home Foundation's fifth annual gala, Torre said he was ``surprised'' Rodriguez opted out of his record deal to seek a new one.
``I really was. But you have to do what you think you need to do,'' he said.
Torre said he hasn't spoken with Rodriguez recently, but they've exchanged messages.
The Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox are other teams thought to be interested in Rodriguez. His agent, Scott Boras, asked the Yankees to make a $350 million offer just to get a meeting with A-Rod before he opted out of his deal.
The Yankees say they're out of the running.
The Dodgers are a big-market team - and they could certainly use a big bat. They hit only 129 home runs this season, ranking 15th out of 16 NL clubs, so the 32-year-old Rodriguez would be a perfect fit at third base. He batted .314 with a major league-best 54 homers and 156 RBIs this season, his fourth in New York.
Torre said owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are committed to making the Dodgers consistent winners again.
``All I can tell you, I know the McCourts are certainly dedicated to putting the Dodger franchise on the right track. They understand the pride factor. We talked about that a lot,'' Torre said. ``But again, they're business people. They're certainly going to take into consideration what they can do that makes sense. And the fact that they have a lot of young players certainly could help make their decision, too.''
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams were among Torre's former Yankees players who attended the event. Bruce Springsteen was on hand to provide entertainment.
Rivera and Posada, longtime Yankees stars who recently filed for free agency, didn't answer questions from reporters. Jeter said he's talked with both his buddies and is confident they'll stay in pinstripes - though he said that opinion isn't based on their conversations.
``I just think they'll come back,'' Jeter said without offering a reason. ``Am I worried? No.''
The shortstop, who gave Torre a big hug when he arrived, said he hasn't talked much to Rivera and Posada about their baseball plans for the future.
``They have enough people asking them those questions,'' Jeter said. I don't ever sit down and look at who's going to be there. You'll drive yourself crazy.''
Torre took over the Yankees in 1996, Jeter's first full season in the majors. Jeter said he's happy for Torre that he found a new job he's excited about.
``You'll miss him. There's always change,'' Jeter said. ``He's always been sort of Hollywood anyway.''
As for Williams, he's not sure if he wants to play again, but he's staying in shape in case someone offers him an enticing opportunity. The 39-year-old former outfielder sat out last season after the Yankees offered him only a minor league deal to come to spring training.
Would he follow Torre to the Dodgers?
``I don't think I have any plans to do something like that,'' Williams said.
Notes: Torre thinks pitcher Andy Pettitte could be leaning toward retirement because he declined his $16 million option with the Yankees. Pettitte said he will pitch for New York or retire, but he wanted more time to decide. ... Roger Clemens filed for free agency, though he might retire. The 45-year-old right-hander went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees this season. ... Clemens may want to pitch for Team USA in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. ``It is something to consider. He and I have talked about it in general,'' said Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks. The Rocket pitched for the United States in the inaugural World Baseball Classic last year. ... Torre said he's still in the process of completing his coaching staff with the Dodgers. Don Mattingly, who will be the hitting coach, attended the event. ... Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti also attended the gala. The Safe at Home Foundation was created by Torre and his wife, Ali, to fight domestic violence.

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