FROM PHOENIX — Praising Ned Colletti for his role in the Dodgers' signing of Manny Ramirez, owner Frank McCourt hinted Thursday that the general manager's performance this winter could be a plus in determining his future with the club.
"There's nobody I know that works harder and wants to achieve the objectives of this organization more than Ned," McCourt said. "He works very, very hard to do that. He embraces all of what we're trying to accomplish."
That being said, McCourt didn't make any promises about whether Colletti would be retained after his four-year contract expires at the end of the year and said he had yet to speak to him about a contract extension.
While McCourt negotiated the two-year, $45-million deal that Ramirez signed, sources close to the situation said it was Colletti who kept the talks alive by serving as the peacemaker between the emotional owner and Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras.
"He's extremely level-headed," McCourt said. "He was very, very level through this whole thing."
Colletti was clearly relieved that the four-month ordeal was over, saying that the negotiations consumed his life the entire off-season.
"This started 141 days ago," Colletti said. "I felt like I spent Thanksgiving with Scott, Christmas with Scott, New Year's Eve with Scott, Groundhog's Day with Scott. In fact, many days felt like Groundhog's Day. But we got it done."
Pierre exploring his options
With the addition of Ramirez solidifying Juan Pierre's place as the Dodgers' fourth outfielder, Pierre said he would restructure his contract if doing so would assure him of being traded to a team where he could be an every-day player again. He is owed $28.5 million over the next three years.
Pierre, who was relegated to reserve duty last year, said that the Dodgers gave his agent, Mark Pieper, permission this winter to find a team that would be interested in trading for him. Pieper couldn't find anyone.
Manager Joe Torre and third base coach Larry Bowa praised the way Pierre handled his demotion last year, pointing to how he continued to help young players such as Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who pushed him out of the lineup.
"If I'm in that situation, I'll do it again," Pierre said. "But I won't ever see myself as a fourth outfielder."
Kuroda feeling comfortable
The ball hit by Brian Myrow in the third inning of the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday probably would have made its way into center field a year ago. The ball was picked up backhanded by second baseman Orlando Hudson, who made a spectacular throw to get Myrow out.
"We have some defensive specialists in our infield," pitcher Hiroki Kuroda said. "I'm always conscious of pitching in a way that would make it easier for the infielders to make plays. In turn, they can help me get into a rhythm by making plays behind me."
The Dodgers have upgraded defensively in the middle of the infield, where shortstop Rafael Furcal and Hudson started next to each other Thursday. Furcal was out for 4 1/2 months with back problems last year. Hudson played last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Starting at second base for the Dodgers last year was 40-year-old Jeff Kent, who had severely limited range.
The stronger infield defense could be a huge plus for Kuroda, who likes to pitch to contact. Kuroda was in a fine rhythm Thursday, as he held the White Sox to no runs and one hit over three innings.