02/13/08 4:55 PM ET
Torre reports ready for camp
LA's new manager talks Dodgers, Yankees and hearings
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
But Joe Torre's first Dodgertown press conference on Wednesday might as well have been held at Legends Field in Tampa, because the topics of discussion were Yankee-centric, particularly a certain former pitcher in pinstripes.
Of primary interest was Torre's take on Roger Clemens' testimony on Wednesday before a House of Representatives panel on steroids. Torre repeated views expressed last month at a Dodger Stadium minicamp, without offering an opinion on whether he thought Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs while pitching for him or whether Clemens lied about it, as has been charged.
"It's just sad, what can I say?" said Torre. "I'd like to see baseball move on right now. I don't know what comment to make about what is and what isn't. It's tied to individuals and I feel bad about what is going on."
Torre said he never saw anything he viewed as "a red flag" and dismissed the suggestion the implication of Clemens and several Yankees teammates taints the manager's New York legacy.
"People are going to put it where they want to put it. I don't know a great deal about steroids or human growth hormone, but overall it's taken a great deal of attention away from how good players are," he said. "My legacy is for someone else to decide. If somebody decides that should be the way it's thought of in some way, that's for them to decide. I enjoyed 12 years in New York and I'm proud of what we accomplished. It's a chapter that I look back on and I'm very proud of."
A new chapter in Torre's career opens this week, as Dodgers pitchers and catchers report Thursday for the first time with him as manager. He arrived in town Tuesday and toured the Dodgertown facility, which he recalled seeing for the first time as a visiting player in the early 1960s. He ran into catcher Russell Martin at the local International House of Pancakes on Tuesday morning, appeared briefly in the clubhouse, spent most of Wednesday meeting with his staff and an hour with three dozen reporters, only a handful of them from Southern California.
When one suggested that the new manager looked relaxed, Torre agreed, even though he's still dealing with lingering discomfort from a left knee replacement in December. Torre all but said he looked forward to a stress reduction resulting from managing any team not named the Yankees.
"There's always pressure trying to satisfy the people you work for," he said. "I'm not trying to be diplomatic, but I'm trying to be reasonable and as honest as I can. In L.A. you're expected to do well. But I remember in Spring Training after winning four World Series and then we lost Game 7 to Arizona and a fan says, 'We'll do better this year.' I thought, 'Now I know what pressure is.' Nothing's good enough."
Torre briefly retraced the bizarre offseason, from his controversial separation from the Yankees in a meeting with George Steinbrenner and his sons, to the unexpected opportunity to replace Grady Little as Dodgers manager when Torre was considering broadcasting offers.
He was asked if he felt he had something to prove.
"I don't feel I have anything to prove," Torre said. "I wasn't sure if I was ready to say I didn't want to do this anymore. I needed to go somewhere else to do it. It's tough in New York. There's a great deal of pressure. I just thought it was time to leave, and the Dodgers are a new chapter."
He said he will need to pay more attention to the intricacies of managing with a return to the National League and will rely on his coaching staff. A first priority will be "to get to know the players, with more young players than in the past."
Torre said Don Mattingly will be in camp next week. Mattingly originally was named as Torre's hitting coach, but he stepped aside to a role of special assignment coach while dealing with a divorce.
"I didn't want him to disconnect. He's going through a tough time," Torre said, adding that he hoped Mattingly would rejoin the staff next year. Triple-A hitting coach Mike Easler was named to replace Mattingly as Major League hitting coach.
Torre's staff includes returning pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and first-base coach Mariano Duncan; third-base coach Larry Bowa, who came with Torre from the Yankees; new bench coach Bob Schaefer; bullpen coach Kenny Howell, promoted from Triple-A pitching coach; longtime coach Manny Mota and bullpen catcher Rob Flippo.
Torre said he considered offering a staff job to longtime friend and associate Don Zimmer, a special assistant to the general manager for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays, but didn't.
"I was afraid he'd say yes," Torre joked. "He's got a good gig."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.