L.A. fills out staff, turns attention to free agents

Updated: November 16, 2007, 4:46 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- New manager Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers completed their coaching staff Friday, retaining pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and first-base coach Mariano Duncan, hiring Bob Schaefer as bench coach and promoting Ken Howell to bullpen coach.

In addition, the team hired Rick Ragazzo as special assistant to the general manager.

Torre announced at his introductory news conference Nov. 5 that Don Mattingly would be the hitting coach and Larry Bowa the third-base coach. Both were members of Torre's staff with the New York Yankees last year.

"Joe and I are very encouraged and confident that this group along with Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa will comprise a tremendous staff," general manager Ned Colletti said on a conference call. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us, especially with the younger players.

"Joe and I spent a lot of time going through this. They're here for a reason, they're here for their expertise. I'm glad we have who we have and encouraged we have a great group."

Colletti also said Manny Mota will return for a 29th season on the staff, and Rob Flippo will come back as bullpen catcher.

Torre said the only people he interviewed for coaching positions were the ones that were hired.

Meanwhile, Torre said he's had some time to familiarize himself with the Dodgers' roster.

"I don't know if there are any gaping holes," he said. "I don't feel like we have to do any overhaul."

Colletti said the Dodgers have contacted a number of free-agent players, but didn't identify them.

"Some of them would be in and around the middle-of-the-order player," he said. "We're still in the early process of it."

He said there have been some trade conversations as well, adding: "We thought we had a deal the other day with somebody and they got cold feet at the end."

When asked specifically about free-agent center fielders Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Aaron Rowand, Colletti replied: "They're all good players. We're curious to know what their interest is in playing here and what it would take to get them here."

If they bring in a center fielder, the Dodgers presumably would move Juan Pierre to left. Pierre signed a five-year, $44 million contract last winter.

The 53-year-old Honeycutt and the 44-year-old Duncan were members of manager Grady Little's coaching staff with the Dodgers the past two years.

Duncan played for Torre with the Yankees in 1996, and made an impression.

"If there was something that happened on the field he didn't like, he let people know about it," Torre said.

The 62-year-old Schaefer was the Oakland Athletics' bench coach last season after spending 2006 as a special assistant to the general manager in Atlanta.

The 46-year-old Howell will be on a big-league coaching staff for the first time after spending the last six seasons as a minor league pitching coach in the Dodgers' organization.

Ragazzo spent the past 17 seasons in the Giants' organization -- 11 as their director of international operations.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press