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Dodgers turn attention to offseason
10/11/2004 4:43 AM ET
LOS ANGELES -- On the night of his team's toughest loss, Paul DePodesta talked about the wins.

"Only two Dodgers teams in the last quarter-century won more games than we did this year and that gave us the right to play the best team in baseball and they beat us and there's no shame in that," the first-year general manager said after the Dodgers bowed out of the National League Division Series.

With a new owner and general manager, the Dodgers won their division for the first time since 1995. They became known for their 53 comeback wins, capped by Steve Finley's walk-off grand slam against the Giants to clinch the NL West Division on Oct. 2. They displayed a game-saving bullpen as well as a reliable defense and dramatically improved offense under the direction of hitting coach Tim Wallach, who was credited for elevating Adrian Beltre into MVP status.

Now, said DePodesta, his season starts as he begins his first offseason in charge. He said he will announce his restructuring of the baseball operations department before the November general manager meetings, with the anticipated re-signing of manager Jim Tracy and his coaching staff of primary importance.

He also has a dozen free agents to address, most notably Adrian Beltre. DePodesta said every effort will be made to bring back the 25-year-old third baseman, who is expected to soon undergo surgery to clean up bone chips and spurs in his left ankle.

DePodesta has money to work with. There is more than $30 million from this year's payroll that is expected to be freed up following the midseason trades of Paul Lo Duca, Juan Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota combined with the expected free-agent departures of Hideo Nomo, Todd Hundley, Odalis Perez, Paul Shuey and Elmer Dessens.

"We have the foundation and the resources to put together a winning club," said DePodesta. "We've got a core of young guys, and if we get the third baseman back, we can still do some things with the pitching and behind the plate."

Robin Ventura announced his retirement following Sunday night's 6-2 loss to St. Louis that ended the Dodgers' season.

"I realize it's time to go," said the 37-year-old Ventura, a six-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star who served as a bench player and elder statesman. "That's it. It was fun. The way it ended, it's not supposed to be some movie. It is what it is. I had a great time this year. Growing up, you always hope to play for the team you followed."

Catcher Brent Mayne, acquired at the trade deadline, said he also is considering retirement.

Finley, at age 39 and having hit 36 home runs, has no intention of retiring and wouldn't mind taking the next step with the Dodgers.

"If this team is going for it again, I'd love to be part of it," he said. "I'll see what they do in the offseason and make my decision from that. A lot of good things happened here."

Jose Lima said he is hoping for a multi-year contract, and the way he pitched the entire season, not just his exciting Game 3 playoff shutout with a broken thumb, he proved his value to the starting rotation.

"He adds so much," DePodesta said of Lima. "You have to take into account what he does off the field as much as on the mound."

Without Lima, next year's tentative starting rotation is Brad Penny, Jeff Weaver, Kazuhisa Ishii and Edwin Jackson. But Penny's status is uncertain because of his arm injury, Ishii was so erratic he was sent to the bullpen twice and Jackson's season was lost to an arm injury and inconsistency.

Jose Hernandez played a vital role in a the second-base platoon situation and he's eligible for free agency, as is Wilson Alvarez, who gave up the crushing three-run homer to Albert Pujols that decided Game 4.

"I told Wilson we want him back and I told him that what happened tonight doesn't change anything," said DePodesta.

Said Alvarez: "That makes me feel a lot better. Hopefully they will give me another chance to come back next year. This year was better than last year, and we can still take another step. I really appreciate everything this organization did for me. They gave me the chance to be somebody again."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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