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Jeff Kent to retire

The major league record-holder for home runs by a second baseman is expected to make the announcement Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

January 22, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

Told that Jeff Kent was scheduled to announce his retirement at Dodger Stadium today, Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa expressed one regret about the future Hall of Famer's tenure in Los Angeles: That more of the team's young players didn't ask him for advice.

"I don't think it's anyone's fault," Bowa said. "I think a lot of the young guys were intimidated by him. It's a shame because you could learn a lot from him."

Known as much for the scolding glances he gave reporters and teammates over his 17-year career as he was for what he achieved on the field, Kent, 40, will leave the game as arguably the greatest power-hitting second baseman of all time. The National League's most valuable player in 2000 as a member of the San Francisco Giants, he hit 355 of his 377 home runs as a second baseman, 74 more than Ryne Sandberg, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Kent, who spent his last four years with the Dodgers, said last season that he would probably retire this winter.

"He didn't play the game to make friends," said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, who was an assistant general manager in San Francisco when Kent played there. "He played the game to compete and to win."

That, Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said, led to some misunderstandings. Like Colletti, Conte has known Kent since his days in San Francisco.

"This guy played 100% every day, every time he was on the field," Conte said. "He expected other people to play like that. I don't think I ever heard him say anything that didn't originate from the fact that he believed you should play hard every day. I don't think he ever disrespected anybody."

Still, there was controversy.

Kent had run-ins with then-teammate Barry Bonds in San Francisco, including a fight in the dugout that was caught by television cameras. Dodgers teammate Milton Bradley said in 2005 that Kent didn't know how to deal with African Americans and when Kent questioned the professionalism of the Dodgers' younger players two years later, first baseman James Loney questioned Kent's qualifications as a leader.

Kent, who graduated from Huntington Beach Edison High and played in the College World Series with California, was selected in the 20th round of the 1989 draft. He played for Toronto and Cleveland before the Giants acquired him as part of a package for Matt Williams in a trade that was later credited for turning around the franchise.

Kent helped the Giants reach the 2002 World Series, where they lost to the Angels.

What stood out to Conte was how Kent often played through pain without worrying about the consequences.

"You see guys do that every once in a while," Conte said. "He did it every day."

Kent played with two pulled hamstrings in the final stretch of the 2007 season and with torn knee cartilage in 2008 that required surgery in early September. He recovered in time for the playoffs.

Blake DeWitt, the rookie who started at second base in the postseason, said Kent went out of his way to help him even though they were competing for the same position. Kent told DeWitt that his move from third base to second would require him to adjust his throwing motion and footwork, lessons DeWitt said he would remember as he enters this season as the projected starting second baseman.

"That was pretty special," DeWitt said. "It means a lot to a young player, especially when it comes from someone with that much experience who has had that much success."

Ausmus makes deal

The Dodgers agreed to the terms of a one-year, $1-million contract with catcher Brad Ausmus, according to baseball sources who were granted anonymity because the deal is pending a physical. The deal includes $350,000 in incentives.

Ausmus, who will turn 40 in April, is expected to back up Russell Martin. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Ausmus hit .218 with three home runs and 24 runs batted in last season.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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