Torre and Dodgers near deal

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers moved closer to making Joe Torre their next manager, receiving permission from Commissioner Bud Selig’s office on Wednesday to bypass the mandatory interviews of minority candidates for the position.

A team source said that the Dodgers asked to be made exempt of the full-scale interview process to expedite the hiring of Torre, the former New York Yankees manager. A deal with Torre believed to be for three years and worth more than $4 million a season could be finalized today.

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he was speaking to Torre and considered him to be the top choice to replace Grady Little, who resigned Tuesday.

“When you look at his resume and what he’s done and the market he’s done it in, certainly, you have to start from there,” Colletti said.

One source close to Little said Little told him Tuesday night that he was under the impression that the Dodgers would hire Torre.


Torre received an endorsement from Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who said, “There is no better option out there.”

Torre led the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in New York and won four World Series titles. He cut ties with the Yankees on Oct. 18 by turning down a incentive-laden contract with a $5-million base salary to return for a 13th season.

Colletti said he first had spoken to Torre over the “last two or three days,” but would not specify how close they were to finalizing a deal.

“I don’t ever classify anything as close or far,” Colletti said. “It’s either done or not done, and it’s not done.”

Colletti also refused to say whether he and Torre had discussed financial terms of a potential deal. He said the subject of the coaching staff had been discussed “lightly, but not to the full-fledged fashion.”

Torre is said to want to appoint his own coaches, among them Don Mattingly, and is negotiating how much money will be spent on them. He also wants input on player personnel moves, which could lead to the pursuit of free agent Alex Rodriguez.

Colletti said the organization was compiling a list of other potential candidates, including minorities. He said he hasn’t spoken to anyone other than Torre and Joe Girardi, who was hired as the Yankees manager Tuesday. He made it clear that he had made advances to at least one other candidate, but “not directly.”

The Dodgers were allowed to skip the interviews of minorities because of their hiring record. Selig issued a memorandum in 1990 directing teams to notify his office of minority candidates they planned to interview for vacancies in decision-making positions.

Assistant general managers Kim Ng and De Jon Watson are minorities -- Ng is an Asian-American woman and Watson is African American -- and president Jamie McCourt is the highest-ranking female executive in baseball.

That the Dodgers were on the verge of hiring Torre pleased Penny, who, like Torre, invests in race horses. Asked if he and Torre might become horse-racing partners, Penny said, “I would hope so.”

The hiring of Torre could help lure free-agent pitcher David Wells back to the Dodgers for another season, Wells’ agent, Gregg Clifton, said.

“He would love to come back,” Clifton said of Wells. “He enjoyed his time with them immensely. David had a lot of success under Joe and I don’t think Joe coming back to the Dodgers is any impediment.”

But Dodgers first baseman James Loney and reliever Joe Beimel said they were saddened by the news of Little’s departure.

Referring to the Dodgers’ fourth-place finish last season, Loney said, “I don’t think you can put any certain percentage of blame on the manager. It depends on the kind of players you have.”

Beimel, who played for three teams in his five seasons before joining the Dodgers in 2006, said he appreciated what Little did for his career.

“He gave me an opportunity to come into games and pitch a lot,” Beimel said. “I kind of got my bearings in L.A. He always showed confidence in me, he let me come in with every situation imaginable.”

Left fielder Luis Gonzalez, catcher Mike Lieberthal and infielder Ramon Martinez filed for free agency.

Mike Brumley was hired by the Dodgers to be their minor league assistant field coordinator, and Gene Clines was promoted from outfield and baserunning coordinator to hitting coordinator.


Ross Newhan, Kevin Baxter and Larry Stewart contributed to this report.