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02/21/09 9:10 PM EST

Manny discussions 'more frequent'

Dodgers keeping cards close to vest while talks continue

PHOENIX -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said recent conversations with agent Scott Boras about free agent Manny Ramirez are "more frequent and longer in duration," but Colletti stopped short of equating that was progress toward a contract settlement.

"I'm not going to characterize the progress," Colletti said on Saturday. "We're just talking much more."

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Of course, the season is drawing closer with the start of Spring Training and Ramirez still isn't known to have received any offers beyond the three from the Dodgers -- two years for $45 million plus an option, $25 million for one year and an offer of salary arbitration.

The issue remains, primarily, the length of contract, with the Dodgers holding firm on two years, Ramirez wanting no less than four guaranteed at a salary in the range of Alex Rodriguez's $27.5 million annually, although sources indicate a three-year deal with a vesting option might satisfy Ramirez if the salary is high enough.

Any settlement will most likely include an escape clause that would allow Ramirez a chance to revisit free agency should the market improve.

The San Francisco Giants are the only other club that has confirmed interest in Ramirez, but they also have indicated they won't try to outbid the Dodgers and are monitoring the situation should the Dodgers break off talks.

Earlier Saturday, while discussing the acquisition of second baseman Orlando Hudson and how it might impact the Dodgers' roster, manager Joe Torre was asked who his left fielder would be.

"I'm certainly hoping Manny is starting out there," Torre said. "I'm not making other plans until I have to."

The Dodgers are still holding open a locker for Ramirez at the end of a row next to Rafael Furcal in their new clubhouse at Camelback Ranch-Glendale.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.