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03/26/11 4:15 PM ET

Mattingly confident in Dodgers' team chemistry

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In a rare and impromptu discourse on the role of clubhouse dynamics in on-field success, Don Mattingly on Saturday conceded seeing breakdowns last season that, as Joe Torre's hitting coach, he tried but couldn't mend.

Now as the Dodgers manager days prior to Opening Day, Mattingly made it clear he has delivered the same advisory to players he perceived as being more receptive to the message.

"If everyone doesn't pull in the same direction, you're going to be in trouble, I don't care how talented you are," Mattingly said. "It's going to take all of us to get where we want to go.

"There will be storms in every season, I know that, and you have to calm them. Last season, when the storms came, we did not stay together. We splintered when we were challenged. We didn't keep our minds on what we were trying to accomplish. If you don't play with a purpose, you're just playing."

The 2010 Dodgers entered the break for the All-Star Game in second place, two games out of the National League West lead. By the end of the July, they had fallen into third place and were seven games behind. Overall, they went 31-43 in the season's second half.

During the spiral, Mattingly detected troubling clubhouse attitudes which, he admitted, he tried to address, to no avail.

"Sometimes, when you're too close to situations, it is hard to have growth," said Mattingly, who revisited those issues in his first camp as the manager. "Then you get away and you say, 'You know, we messed this up. To be better, we've got to be better with each other.'

"You can't will it for them. They've got to want it for themselves."

On the approach to Thursday's Opening Day, Mattingly detects "want" and was upbeat the day before the Dodgers break camp and return to Los Angeles.

"It's been a good camp. The players have done everything I've asked. They've paid attention to detail," Mattingly said. "What I've been really encouraged about is their focus. I feel positive about how things have gone.

"I always go forward. What you see in the rear-view mirror can't have an affect on what's ahead of you.

"You can talk to them all you want, but the time comes when you have to give them the reins and just say, 'Go play.' We're there. The opportunity is right in front of us."

Tom Singer is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.