Source: Dodgers close in on left fielder

Updated: December 6, 2010, 10:43 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' search for a left fielder has been narrowed to free agents Matt Diaz and Scott Podsednik and a third outfielder whose name remains a mystery, according to a well-placed source. Neither Diaz nor Podsednik are considered everyday players, meaning the Dodgers probably will have at least four positions without a full-time starter and that new manager Don Mattingly will be forced to do a lot of mixing and matching when making out his daily lineups next season.

"That isn't all bad," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who declined to speak publicly about specific players he is targeting for the position. "It keeps people fresh and keeps people competitive. If somebody doesn't have a full-time job, that's OK."

The Dodgers also are pursuing a catcher -- either Russell Martin, who became a free agent when the Dodgers non-tendered him last week, or another catcher presently on the free-agent market -- to share time on a roughly equal basis with Rod Barajas.

If the Dodgers aren't able to land such a catcher, Barajas will get the vast majority of the starts, with A.J. Ellis as the backup. But if they do sign another catcher, they will have two spots in their everyday lineup -- catcher and left field -- in which the playing time will be split, and two others -- second base and third base -- in which someone other than the primary starter figures to get a lot of starts.

The plan for now is that primary third baseman Casey Blake will get more rest than he has in the past. When Blake doesn't start, newly-signed second baseman Juan Uribe will move to third, with utility man Jamey Carroll taking over at second.

Diaz or Podsednik likely would share time in left field with Jay Gibbons, who also would occasionally fill in for James Loney at first base.

Podsednik, who will turn 35 in spring training, spent the final two months of 2010 with the Dodgers after they acquired him from the Kansas City Royals. He hit .262 for the Dodgers before he missed the final three weeks of the season with plantar fasciitis. He then declined his half of a $2 million mutual option after the season, opting for free agency.

Diaz, who will turn 33 in spring training, was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves last week after making just 53 starts for them last season. He hit .250 with seven homers and 31 RBIs and missed six weeks during the first half after undergoing surgery on his thumb.

Padilla returning to Dodgers?

The Dodgers might be closing in on re-signing free-agent pitcher Vicente Padilla, although it isn't immediately clear what Padilla's role will be if he returns. The Dodgers rotation already has five established starters, so Padilla could be a swing man who pitches primarily out of the bullpen but could step into the rotation if a starter is injured.

However, multiple sources said Padilla also could be a candidate for the closer's role if Jonathan Broxton continues to struggle. Broxton actually lost the closer's job in August because of continued ineffectiveness, but both Colletti and Mattingly have said this winter they expect to start the season with Broxton back in the closer's role -- albeit presumably on a short leash.

"He is our closer right now," Colletti said Monday. "That is where we're going to start, and hopefully, that is where we're going to finish. From all indications, from talking to him and from [medical] tests, he is physically fine. We view it as a lack of confidence, probably some doubt in his own mind."

Elia leaves Dodgers

Lee Elia, a special assistant to Colletti in the Dodgers front office for the past two years, has left the organization to join the Atlanta Braves as a hitting instructor. Elia lives in Tampa and simply wanted to work closer to home.

Elia said he will assist new Braves hitting coach Larry Parrish when the team is at home, then visit the minor league affiliates while the team is on the road.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com