With the Dodgers being afforded their second day off in the first week of the season, GM Ned Colletti was kind enough to chat with Sr. Writer Kenny Shulsen of Lasorda’s Lair. Expecting 5 minutes of his time, Ned was cool enough to spend 15 minutes on the phone talking Dodgers baseball.
Disclaimer we spoke about stuff that I cannot publish, unless I don’t want to speak to Mr. Colletti ever again, so on that note here we go. First off we discussed the acquisition of Ramon Hernandez, Ned stressed the need for 3 catchers, the trade was in no way a lack of faith in Tim Federowicz, but more the importance of having 3 catchers knowing that at some time one is going to get injured. There was also some behind the scenes dealing I really can’t get into but the deal helps the Dodgers both on the field and off the field.
I expressed my impressions of Opening Day and how spectacular it was and Ned agreed. He also spoke of a conscious effort on behalf of the organization to get past players involved with the franchise. He mentioned Shawn Green, Eric Karros and more showing up to speak with the players during spring training, but obviously the highlight was Sandy Koufax throwing out the first pitch. I told him what a classy way to begin the season and he agreed. He mentioned what an iconic franchise the Dodgers are and the importance of recognizing and building on that tradition. I mentioned that I couldn’t believe the Dodgers were the last team to play the Yankees in New York in interleague play, and we both agreed the Dodgers and Yankees should be an annual series with 2 games in LA and 2 games in NY.
As far as Yasiel Puig goes Ned said he was obviously impressed with his showing at Spring Training but also mentioned that Puig still has a lot of work to do. I mentioned all of the “so called” nay sayers who blasted the Dodgers for signing Puig mentioning his attitude, work ethic, weight and several other factors being obstacles that would prevent him from ever meeting his expectations. Ned said there were a couple of instances in camp, him not hustling out of the box and being throw out at second, that Puig took full responsibility for and were great learning tools for him. He also spoke about his need to work on pitch and strike zone recognition and pitchers he faced in March will be different than what he faces in Chattanooga. He also put to rest any rumors of Puig moving from the outfield, according to Ned “Puig is and will be an outfielder and is an exciting prospect to add to our overall depth.”
Chad Billingsley will definitely start on Wednesday and Hanley Ramirez is on schedule for his return. Hanley is working on fielding grounders, I asked Ned how Hanley looked and he laughed saying guys who are 6 weeks out aren’t as much of a focus for me as other guys who are closer to return. My first baseball 101 duh question to an executive, but Ned was cool and laughed it off even though I felt like a complete tool.
We talked about the offense and both agreed and hoped that the 6 runs scored on Sunday is the kickstart they need to get it going. My impression on Matt Kemp is that he is really pressing at the plate, if you look at him in the dugout and in the field he is all smiles, but at the dish he’s tight, Ned didn’t comment. We both agreed that Adrian picking up the RBI’s that Matt left on base should loosen him up, and it was great to see Ethier go deep off of a lefty to shut up all of the naysayers who say he can’t hit lefties, my words not his. Finally getting away from the 56,000 Dodgers fans may also help the offense as guys may relax and just let it come to them and watch the offense come to life.
All in all you can tell that Ned is obviously working on a different level than he has in years past. Instead of concerns about who the 5th starter will be now it’s what moves can we make that help the organization off the field, for example we both sighed at the prospects of still paying Andruw Jones. And remember before you blast Ned for working contracts that were back loaded, you have to remember the tight constraints he was working under vs the what the current ownership group has allowed him to do.
Everytime I speak with him I remember how much smarter he is than all of us and how much he cares about the success of our beloved Dodgers. I am guilty of Ned bashing in the past but after spending time with him I realize just how little I know about what is really going on behind the scenes. But rest assured Dodgers fans the organization has more smart people making decisions than they may ever have and the team on the field and we the fans will be the beneficiaries of those smart decisions. For example the Dodgers were blasted for spending so much money on Puig, Ryu and taking on Carl Crawford‘s contract. Does anyone want to take back those acquisitions now? Thank you again to Ned for dropping by the Lair and we wish you nothing but the best of luck this year…It’s a Whole New Blue & It’s Always Time for Dodger Baseball!