Colletti ready to see new roster in action
Dodgers GM careful not to make boastful predictions
Ned Colletti doesn't see the glass half-empty. Or half-full.
He's too busy figuring out how to fill it.
"My children tell me that I worry about things people haven't even thought of yet," Colletti said.
And that's the way he looks at the Dodgers, as his first season as general manager draws nearer.
"I'm never completely satisfied with a club unless we win the last game of the postseason," Colletti said. "You can't ever be satisfied. There are always ways to improve it."
Off to a late start for the negotiating season with a Nov. 16 hire date, the 51-year-old Colletti inherited a roster from Paul DePodesta that went 71-91, turned it upside down and shook it. He surrounded mainstay Jeff Kent with veterans sporting plenty of postseason experience, but most still hungering for a World Series ring.
He's now had six weeks to evaluate what he put together. Here's his summary of Spring Training:
"I had a chance to see our young players," he said. "The [World Baseball Classic] gave us added opportunities to see the kids longer. That was something I had anticipated since I took the job, with everything I had heard about the farm system. I had to hold off from some winter activity because I wanted to get a feel for what we had, to see it for myself. Now I have a pretty good feel for where they are in their development and what the upside potential is.
"I had a chance to see the team play together, to see how the incumbents meshed with the new players, the free-agent signings and the trade acquisitions. It seems to be going well. I haven't heard anything about that that concerns me.
"I got to know the players that I didn't already know -- guys like J.D. Drew, Odalis Perez, Brad Penny, Dioner Navarro.
"I got to watch this team from a different perspective. The difference being, instead of how a certain player on the team can hurt you, which is how I looked at it when I was with the Giants, it's how a player can help you.
"And I got to spend time with [manager] Grady Little and his staff on an almost daily basis and got to know them."
Colletti hired Little and his staff without really getting to know them first. No, he's not your typical general manager.
He spent a lot to sign Rafael Furcal, because he felt he first needed a replacement for the injured Cesar Izturis at leadoff and shortstop, and he needed to make a statement about the direction the franchise was heading. He signed Nomar Garciaparra and turned him into a first baseman. He signed Bill Mueller to fill the hole at third base and Kenny Lofton to patrol center field.
He's not eager to make boastful predictions. He chooses his words as carefully as the former public relations director that he is.
"I would say that as of this moment in time, I think it's been a very productive and educational spring," Colletti said. "We're off to a good start, but we're all curious to see what it's going to look like when it gets into the flow of the season."
He made pitching a priority, so he signed Brett Tomko as innings-eating insurance for the eventual departure of Jeff Weaver and acquired Jae Seo to upgrade the fifth-starter slot. He's now hoping for one more upgrade from within, be it Seo, Derek Lowe, Penny, Perez or Tomko.
"Our pitching needs somebody to step up as the No. 1 on the staff," he said. "We need quality innings pitched and a lot of them. Our bullpen, if it's healthy, should support the starters. There's always a domino effect. It all begins with the starting pitchers. If they keep you in the game and put up innings, it keeps your bullpen fresh."
The bullpen looks deep, but Eric Gagne doesn't look quite right coming off elbow surgery, so Colletti feels some satisfaction in landing Danys Baez as a 41-save ninth-inning understudy.
Gagne's uncertain physical condition is a reminder of all that went wrong in 2005, and Colletti is hesitant to breathe any sighs of relief just because most of the injured are healthy or healing.
"Our health is a day-to-day proposition, a moment-to-moment proposition," he said. "Somebody who's never hurt can go down, somebody with a history of injuries can stay healthy. You trust that the players and the training staff are doing everything they can to keep the players playing. And even at that, there's a level of unpredictability.
"I don't get excited. I take it all day by day. There are a lot of things I could get excited about, but I'm not going to jump the gun. I only get excited one time of the year -- when we've won a championship. I've seen too many crazy things happen. The only thing you can predict is unpredictability."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.