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Joe Torre speaks on Manny Ramirez and much more

January 14, 2010 |  4:24 pm

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre spoke up on several topics at the baseball owners’ meetings today:  

Dodgerslogo On whether he has spoken with Manny Ramirez since the season ended: “No. That’s my fault.”

On Ramirez’ marked decline in production after his return of a 50-game drug suspension: “I still feel he wasn’t himself when he came back. At that point, there were 50 games off and then spring training. To me, he was very uncomfortable, trying to recapture what he had. In the clubhouse, he was the same guy. We want that balanced hitter and relaxed guy.”

On whether Ramirez should have played in more than five minor league rehabilitation games: “The thing became a circus anyway. I don’t know if that would have helped.”

On what he expects from Ramirez this season: “I expect him to be back as a middle-of-the-lineup guy.”

On whether he believes Ramirez might be finished as an elite hitter if he is finished with performance-enhancing substances: “I reject that thinking. He was not comfortable, and he was out of balance. His approach, mechanically, was forced. I don’t think his ability is going to fall off. That’s why I am more than hopeful he is going to be able to do this.”  

On Clayton Kershaw: “He’s a legitimate, big-time pitcher. He’s still just 21 years old. We can’t all of a sudden hook our wagon to him and say, ‘Take us there.’ ”  

On what he expects from Chad Billingsley: “To get better. It was really a strange year he had. I think the two injuries really knocked him off his game. He tried to force it. He never got into his rhythm. He had lost his confidence more than anything.”

On whether had talked with Billingsley this winter: “I left him a message four, five, six days ago. I haven’t heard back.” 

On a Dodgers’ rotation with Kershaw, Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and two vacancies: “We’re still looking to shore up our pitching staff. Randy Wolf was huge for us last year. We’re going to look to add a starting pitcher.”  

On Randy Wolf’s desire for a multi-year contract: “When I said goodbye to Wolf that last day, I hugged him and said, ‘I hope you get what you want. You earned it.’ "

On why the Dodgers would not offer Wolf a one-year contract via salary arbitration -- for fear the contract might be cost-prohibitive — rather than forfeit two top draft picks as compensation: “I don’t have an answer for that, or for where we were with our finances. It just didn’t seem reasonable to me he would come back for a year.”  

On the clubhouse mood after the Dodgers lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive season: “It was so different losing to Philly this time, even though we did it both times in five games. These players realized they were very close to doing something special. That was different than the year before, when they were happy to be there.”  

On second base, with veteran Jamey Carroll signed as an option there: “It looks like Blake DeWitt will be someone we give a legitimate shot to play second base.”  

On Orlando Hudson’s claim that Torre never communicated with him about his September benching in favor of Ron Belliard: “We had a conversation in San Francisco. I told him, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. Belliard is swinging the bat. I can’t tell you what it will be like day-to-day.’ ”  

On whether he has gotten any calls from other clubs asking about Hudson, who remains a free agent: “No.”  

On whether the Dodgers are a better team now than they were at the end of last season: “I don’t know. We’ll see in spring training. I can’t say that.”  

On whether his still-pending contract extension through 2011 would indeed mark the end of his managerial career: “ ’11 is it for me. I’ve lied before, so it doesn’t matter.”  

On the possibility of serving as an assistant to General Manager Ned Colletti after he finishes managing: “I love Ned. I’m about as comfortable with him as I’ve ever been with somebody in that capacity.”  

On Times columnist T.J. Simers’ suggestion that Torre get Sandy Koufax to join Simers and Torre on stage at a benefit for Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation: “I said, ‘Sandy doesn’t do these things, but I will ask him.’ Sandy said, ‘I’ll do it for you.’ I was very touched.” 

-- Bill Shaikin in Phoenix 

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