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Dodgers could put bats in McGwire's hands

Former home run champion is expected to be named the team's hitting coach.

November 03, 2012|Dylan Hernandez
  • Mark McGwire, hitting coach for the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on Apr. 16, 2011.
Mark McGwire, hitting coach for the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on Apr.… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Mark McGwire is expected to become the Dodgers' next hitting coach, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his hiring hasn't been finalized.

An iconic home run champion whose legacy was tainted by steroid use, McGwire was the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals the last three seasons. The Dodgers' previous hitting coach, Dave Hansen, was fired last month.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 06, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Home run record: A Sports article Nov. 3 on the Dodgers' expected signing of former slugger Mark McGwire as batting coach said that in 1998, McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris' record of 60 home runs. Maris set the record with 61 home runs.

A move to the Dodgers would mark a homecoming for the 49-year-old McGwire, who graduated from La Verne Damien High and played at USC. He has an off-season home in Orange County.

McGwire was one of baseball's most popular players during the sport's so-called "steroid era." In 1998, he and Sammy Sosa pursued and broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old single-season home run record of 60. McGwire, who played for the Cardinals, finished with 70 home runs. Sosa, who played for the Chicago Cubs, finished with 66.

But that memorable season became the subject of scrutiny in subsequent years. Jose Canseco, who played with McGwire in Oakland, accused McGwire of using steroids in a 2005 book.

Later that year, McGwire testified in front of Congress in a hearing on steroids. While fellow witnesses Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro denied ever using steroids, McGwire repeatedly sidestepped the issue by saying he didn't want to talk about the past.

In 2010, McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. The public confession came before he was about to start his first season as the Cardinals' hitting coach.

McGwire ranks 10th all-time with 583 career home runs, but has never come close to being elected to the Hall of Fame. His best showing was in 2010, when he was named on 23.7% of ballots submitted by members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. A player must be named on 75% of ballots to be elected.

The slugger's transition to hitting coach was widely viewed with skepticism, as he was a power hitter with no previous coaching experience.

But in McGwire's three seasons with the Cardinals, they led the National League in hitting (.269) and on-base percentage (.337) and were second in runs (2,263).

The Cardinals continued to thrive offensively even after losing Albert Pujols to the Angels last winter. This year they led the NL in on-base percentage (.338) and were second in hitting (.271) and runs (765). The Dodgers ranked eighth in the league in hitting (.252) and 13th in runs (637).

McGwire has also been credited with helping develop young hitters such as Allen Craig, David Freese and Matt Carpenter.

McGwire has already informed the Cardinals that he intends to reject their offer of a contract extension and accept a position with the Dodgers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Another surgery

Reliever Javy Guerra underwent an arthroscopic procedure Friday to clean up his throwing shoulder. He is expected to start a throwing program in six weeks and be ready for the start of spring training.

It was the second surgery of the year for Guerra, who had a minor knee operation in June. He first felt discomfort in his shoulder near the end of the regular season while rehabilitating a strained side muscle.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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