Torre having a great time this spring
Manager entering second season with Dodgers, Manny in LA
MLB.com sat down with Dodgers manager Joe Torre during Spring Training to discuss his expectations for the team heading into the 2009 season.
MLB.com: You've often said that, for you, it's all about the pitching. Are you comfortable with what you have at this time?
Torre: You never have enough; you always want more. But I think, aside from finding left-handed help for reliever [Hong-Chih] Kuo, we have people that are probably capable of handling the jobs. We still have to find a fifth starter. And from there, in the bullpen, starting with [Jonathan] Broxton in the closing role, we need to have multiple-innings guys. But we've got guys like [Cory] Wade and [Guillermo] Mota, who can give us one-plus innings. That will be big, to provide a bridge to the back-end guys.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
MLB.com: Is managing Manny Ramirez easier than you expected?
Torre: The way I look at it, I like to believe I can communicate with people. I'm not saying I'm capable of doing something nobody else can. I don't want people thinking I have that ability. What I'm looking for is somebody of the mindset that wants to win, and anything that I say or ask them to do, that'll reach them. I'm not trying to show somebody who's boss. I'm trying to put a team together to play with one goal in mind -- to win. I pretty much manage guys with the thought that they respect each other.
There are always one or two guys that are exceptions. But Manny, I think it helped knowing him from the All-Star Game. I knew he was a free spirit, but you hear from teammates or from other people that they enjoyed being around him. When that's not the case, they don't say anything.
MLB.com: While Russell Martin didn't have a bad year in 2008, it wasn't what the organization expected. What have you seen from him this spring that indicates you'll get more from him this year?
Torre: He was far from satisfied last year and he made me feel good in November by calling me and starting a dialogue. Sometimes guys have success, and their idea of success and your idea of success are two different things. When Russell made that phone call to me, even though his year was far from a disappointment, he felt he could have gotten more out of it. From what I've seen this spring, it seems like he's determined to get more out of it, and it wasn't always less than we expected last year, it was just inconsistent.
MLB.com: You had the luxury of a Mariano Rivera to close in New York, and for the first half of last season, a Takashi Saito. Will you manage the late innings differently because you now have an inexperienced closer?
Torre: What I did with Mariano, you leave him out there. It's his job and you leave him out there. There's going to be growing pains. You make a commitment when a closer faces the same guy twice in the same game. It happened with Rivera. I told him, you're it. Whether it's this week or next week or whenever. In saying that, you know the guy has the makeup to do it.
MLB.com: Is there anything last year that you would have done differently?
Torre: Not really. Coming in last year, with no knowledge of the team, just doing what you do, you have results or reactions and you make adjustments. I don't think I would do anything or could have done anything differently. The only thing I missed early in the year was not having Don Mattingly. He adds so much to what we do and what we try to do.
MLB.com: Having had a full season and half of Spring Training to study the current club, does it compare with any of your Yankees teams?
Torre: The early Yankees teams had a lot of young players -- [Derek] Jeter, [Jorge] Posada, Mariano, [Andy] Pettitte -- I think probably when I went to New York, one thing stood out to me. I had never had the depth of pitching in previous managing stops. That impressed me more than anything else. I don't think we have that same depth here. The personality here, they have the understanding after last year how to go about it. Their work ethic is good. They seem to be having fun this spring and I give Manny a lot of that credit.
MLB.com: What was the most pleasant surprise about your move West?
Torre: I took the job last year because I was hoping and wondering if managing could be fun again. It started out rocky. I wasn't feeling good, the knee [replacement] thing. I was under the weather. I wasn't strong enough because I lost a lot of blood in the surgery and was anemic. I didn't know if I had enough energy for it. Once that was solved, it was exciting. I probably enjoyed myself more than I would have settled for. I really did. Players are interchangeable. Winners are winners. I came from winners and it was nice seeing these kids find out they have the ability to get something done. That was very satisfying.
MLB.com: You're signed through 2010 and you've said you expect this to be your last contract managing. You haven't said that you will manage in 2010. Can you envision a scenario where you would choose this to be your last season managing?
Torre: I never know that. Only because you ask the question, my philosophy hasn't changed. When it stops being fun or I feel I'm not useful, I won't do it. There were a couple times in New York. One time I didn't know if George [Steinbrenner] wanted me back and I asked and he said yes, and I was re-energeized. As long as I feel I'm doing some good and it'll be fun. If for some reason I lose the fire, but I've stopped thinking about it. I'm 68, and this is about as much fun as I've had in the spring. Then again, the road trips are tough because of family stuff. But I just hope when the decision is made, it's mine.
MLB.com: On a scale of 1-10, if winning a World Series as a manager is a 10, what would it be to win a Kentucky Derby as the owner of a thoroughbred?
Torre: George Steinbrenner, now that he's won World Series, he'd say an 11. The World Series, in my part, it's something I had something to do with. Jump over to thoroughbreds, I'm strictly a fan. I know nothing, other than money makes that possible, but it doesn't make me an authority. It's certainly exciting, and when you understand the horses are athletes, the stretch run, it's exciting.
And hanging out with [Hall of Fame trainer] Bobby Frankel has been wonderful for me. There are baseball managers and horse trainers. He takes it very personal, that's the way I take managing, and how we go about it and feel about it and what our choice of occupation, there are real similarities. Things are so computerized nowadays. I'm a little taken aback to the non-personal approach to things. To me, it's all about people. In his line of work, the people are horses. He looks at them as individuals, like I do.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.