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Springing to Life

February 15, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE

What's a spring training without a little suspense and intrigue? Some things to think about as the Dodgers begin workouts at Vero Beach, Fla.:

* BIGGEST QUESTION OF SPRING: Is this Tom Lasorda's last season? The secret is out. Lasorda has no intention of retiring. If the Dodgers win the World Series, instead of going out in a blaze of glory, one of his coaches predicted, he'll instead try to manage another five years.

* BANK ON IT: If this indeed happens to be Lasorda's final season, triple-A Manager Phil Regan will take over until Mike Scioscia or Glenn Hoffman is ready.

* JOB SEEKERS: The biggest competition of the spring will be between Todd Hollandsworth and Billy Ashley for the starting left-field job. Dodger management, afraid to give up on Ashley's power, is beginning with the idea that the two players will platoon until one clearly emerges. The Dodgers technically have a fifth spot in the rotation open, but they've let it be known that it's Pedro Astacio's job to lose.

* WHAT, ME WORRY: The Dodgers go into spring saying their only glaring weakness is a lack of right-handed power off the bench, but there is potential for unrest. Starting pitcher Hideo Nomo was the first player to arrive in camp but still is unsigned. Outfielder Raul Mondesi doesn't want to sign until Nomo signs. Starting pitcher Ismael Valdes says he should be paid comparably to Nomo. And there are four replacement players from a year ago on the spring-training roster.

* WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Nomo becomes plagued by arm problems because of his overuse of the forkball, closer Todd Worrell once again is felled by a sore elbow, center fielder Brett Butler, 38, starts to show his age, all-star catcher Mike Piazza is knocked out of the lineup because of injuries and the team falls flat on its face.

* BEST-CASE SCENARIO: The Dodgers prove that last season merely was a glimpse of their explosive talent, run away with the NL West title, defeat the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs and shock the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

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