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Mattingly to be special assignment coach for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly won't be alongside Joe Torre in
the Los Angeles Dodgers' dugout for every game this year.

Mattingly will be moved from Dodgers hitting coach to major
league special assignment coach for the 2008 season due to family
reasons, the team said Tuesday. Mike Easler will replace Mattingly
as hitting coach.

"Donnie is prioritizing his family first," his agent, Ray
Schulte, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "The Dodgers
have been very supportive, creating a position so Don can still
make a contribution to the team throughout the year!"

After losing out to Joe Girardi for the New York Yankees'
managerial job, Mattingly agreed to follow Torre to Los Angeles.

Mattingly will now assist with the Dodgers' major league
coaching staff during spring training and throughout the season. He
still wants to become a major league manager one day.

"I'm very grateful that the Dodgers have allowed me to take
care of these family matters and I hope that everyone can respect
our privacy during this time," Mattingly said in a statement
issued by the team. "I truly appreciate the support of all Dodger
fans since joining the organization and I look forward to helping
the team win in 2008 and beyond."

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he was surprised when
Mattingly contacted him.

"He's still going to be a piece of the organization. We're
happy about that," Colletti said. "Some of this we're going to
play by ear regarding his schedule. A lot of this will get ferreted
out as the year goes on.

"It's one of those situations that needs to be taken care of
and we support him completely. You're always disappointed when
anybody has to go through any type of issues. We'll make the best
of it, we'll be supportive of him."

Colletti said the change in jobs meant a change in Mattingly's
contract, but wouldn't elaborate. Mattingly agreed to a multiyear
deal when he joined the Dodgers, and it seemed a good possibility
he would become the Dodgers' manager when the 67-year-old Torre's
three-year contract runs out.

"It's too early to tell," Colletti said regarding the future.
"My opinion of him hasn't changed. I still think he has a great
amount of intellect and ability that he can bring to the
organization. We'll see what transpires. I could have said that
back in November."

The 57-year-old Easler was the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting
coach from 1999-2001, and served in the same capacity for the
Milwaukee Brewers in 1992 and the Boston Red Sox from 1993-94. He
spent the last two seasons as a hitting coach in the Dodgers' minor
league system.

Among players Easler worked with during the past two years at
Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Las Vegas were Matt Kemp, James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young and Chin-Lung Hu.

Colletti said he and Torre thought about Easler right away after
hearing from Mattingly.

"He's been a hitting coach before in the big leagues, he's
basically walked the walk with a number of our young kids,"
Colletti said. "It's almost February, the transition we thought
would be easier with Mike, easier with our players. We thought he
was the right person and deserved the opportunity to do it."

Easler called the move "a situation of what started two years
ago."

"This is a blessing to me, a blessing to my family," he said.
"These kids can play. I love these kids, these kids are like my
sons. Timing is a key thing in this game. I've been in the game for
38 years. It so happens the timing is right now and I'm going to
make the best of this year."