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Little’s contract extended

Times Staff Writer

Following through on a promise made months ago, the Dodgers picked up the option on Manager Grady Little’s contract and added a year, giving him financial security through at least 2008.

Picking up the option keeps Little from beginning the season in the awkward situation he found himself in during the 2003 season with the Boston Red Sox. He managed as a lame duck and was fired after the season despite leading the team one victory short of the World Series.

Little, 57, signed a two-year Dodgers deal with an option when General Manager Ned Colletti hired him before the 2006 season. Terms of the extension weren’t disclosed, but incentives were built into the options for 2008 and 2009 based on the Dodgers’ playoffs success.

Little’s salary last year was in the neighborhood of $650,000, and he could exceed $1 million by 2008 if he reaches the incentives, which were Colletti’s idea.

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“I’m thrilled we got this taken care of,” said Colletti, who had been general manager for about a month when he hired Little. “I had great expectations for the first manager I would hire and Grady met every expectation I had.”

Little has the highest winning percentage of any active manager at .568. His Red Sox teams won 93 and 95 games and the Dodgers were 88-74 last season, an improvement of 17 victories from 2005. However, the Dodgers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

“We made strides last year but we aren’t where we want to be yet,” Little said. “It’s an honor for me to be part of trying to get to that ultimate goal of a World Series championship.”

Having endured uncertainty in Boston, Little said it was important to get the extension before the season began.

“It is a more comfortable feeling,” he said. “But it won’t affect the job I do on the field. I would do the same job if I had a 10-year contract or a two-day contract.”

Trouble times three

The three relievers the Dodgers will count on to close games poured gas on the flames in a 13-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday at Holman Stadium.

Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel pitched in reverse order of how they will be used when the season begins, and the results were the opposite of what the Dodgers want.

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Saito gave up a home run to Chris Duncan in the seventh inning, Broxton walked two, gave up a hit and an unearned run in two-thirds of an inning and Beimel gave up five runs (one earned) in the eighth. Broxton has walked five in two days.

“There is a phase in spring training a lot of pitchers go through,” catcher Russell Martin said. “Their arm strength lowers, then it builds back up. I don’t think there is anything to worry about.”

Power guy

Catcher Mike Lieberthal spent $300,000 on solar panels at his Westlake Village home, battling through objections by the city because he felt it is important to be environmentally aware.

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“I plan on being in the house for many years,” he said. “In the long run, it will benefit me financially.”

Bits and pieces

Jason Schmidt threw 85 pitches against minor league hitters because his command wasn’t sharp and his velocity was down in his last two Grapefruit League outings.... Mark Hendrickson didn’t gain ground in his effort to win the No. 5 starting spot, giving up four runs in five innings.... Yhency Brazoban, who is recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery, will face hitters for the first time Friday.

steve.henson@latimes.com

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Online poll

There were 3,102 votes cast in the most recent online poll: Who should be the Dodgers’ fifth starter?

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*--* Brett Tomko 32.0% Hong-Chih Kuo 29.7% Chad Billingsley 28.2% Mark Hendrickson 6.1% Joe Mays 2.9% Eric Stults 1.1%

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