Dodgers Are Still Unbeaten : Baseball: Left side of Gagne and Blowers gives them optimism for 1996.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perhaps it was provoked by the sight of shortstop Greg Gagne and third baseman Mike Blowers walking into Dodger Stadium.

Maybe it was motivated by Manager Tom Lasorda's watching Gagne make plays on the highlight reel that Lasorda hadn't seen by one of his shortstops since Bill Russell.

It might have been the result of Gagne and Blowers telling everyone they might be surrounded by the best collection of talent in their careers.

Whatever prompted it, unbridled optimism was in the air at Dodger Stadium on Friday. It may be nearly four months from opening day, but if you listen to the new left side of the Dodger infield and Lasorda, it's none too early to begin making World Series plans.

"I don't want to knock anybody," Lasorda said, trying not to utter shortstop Jose Offerman's name. "But look, to be a winning ballclub you've got to be strong up the middle. We now have that.

"I don't think Atlanta wanted to play us [before], and now we're better. We could beat them . . . I'm looking forward to bringing a World Series championship back to this city, where it belongs."

The Braves remain the team to beat as long as four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux is wearing their colors, but Dodger Executive Vice President Fred Claire said never during his eight-year tenure have the Dodgers had so few questions to answer before the holidays.

"I'm not going to say we're better than the Braves," Claire said. "But we're a lot better and I think we can compete with anybody. I think the whole feeling is very positive right now."

Blowers, who hit .257 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs for Seattle last season--but only .213 away from the cozy Kingdome, with six home runs--predicts he'll have no trouble adjusting to a new league or pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. Gagne, who has played only in the Midwest for the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals, says he's looking forward to playing for his first large-market team.

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