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Banking on experience

Times Staff Writer

Joe Torre signed his name on a three-year contract worth $13 million Thursday, officially making him the sixth Dodgers manager of the last decade.

But General Manager Ned Colletti said that while he did not expect the 67-year-old Torre to hold the position for “a very, very long time,” the signing of the former New York Yankees manager was part of a design to establish continuity for the Dodgers.

“If we can groom somebody under Joe’s direction, we look forward to doing that,” Colletti said, adding that the concept was a “key component” of a vision he shares with owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.

The plan will start to unfold in the public eye Monday morning, when Torre will be formally introduced as Grady Little’s successor at a Dodger Stadium news conference. Little, who managed the Dodgers for two seasons, resigned Tuesday.

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On a conference call to discuss the hiring of Torre, Colletti left open the possibility that the club could pursue free-agent Alex Rodriguez. Colletti acknowledged he had questions about his team’s present options at third base, popular but declining veteran Nomar Garciaparra and untested up-and-comer Andy LaRoche.

Colletti said Dodgers management would meet in the near future to discuss strategies regarding Rodriguez and other free agents, as well as trade targets. Rodriguez, who played for Torre the last four seasons, parted ways with the Yankees on Sunday by opting out of the final three years of a 10-year, $252-million deal. Colletti said that like Little, Torre would be consulted on player personnel decisions.

Also leaving the Yankees recently was Don Mattingly, who is expected to be on Torre’s coaching staff and could be the manager-in-training of whom Colletti spoke. Colletti said a coaching staff was not in place yet.

Mattingly, a coach under Torre the last four seasons, was widely assumed to be Torre’s successor at New York. He was a finalist for the job that Torre vacated last month, but the Yankees hired Joe Girardi instead.

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Mattingly said Tuesday his goal remained to become a manager and said he would coach elsewhere to realize it. He said he had spoken to Torre after losing out on the Yankees job but was noncommittal when asked whether he would follow Torre to Los Angeles.

Mattingly’s agent, Ray Schulte, said Thursday that Mattingly wasn’t prepared to talk about anything related to Torre.

Former major league manager Larry Bowa, who coached under Torre in New York, also is expected to be part of Torre’s staff.

The Dodgers were able to expedite the signing of Torre by receiving permission from Commissioner Bud Selig’s office Wednesday to skip the mandatory interviews of minority candidates. The exemption was granted because of the Dodgers’ hiring record -- assistant general managers Kim Ng and De Jon Watson are minorities, and team President Jamie McCourt is the highest-ranking female executive in baseball.

Torre left the Yankees after 12 seasons Oct. 18, when he turned down an incentive-laden, one-year contract with a base salary of $5 million, an offer he called “insulting.” Torre led the Yankees to the playoffs in every season he managed them and won four World Series titles.

“The McCourts couldn’t have made a better decision,” said former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, a special advisor to the owners.

Torre said in a statement released by the team: “Having grown up in Brooklyn, I have a great understanding of the history of the Dodgers organization and I am committed to bringing them a world championship back to Los Angeles.”

Torre has a managerial record of 2,067-1,770 with a .539 winning percentage in 26 major league seasons, ranking him eighth all-time in victories.

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“What he’s done the last 12 years is as powerful as any manager in recent memory,” Colletti said. “Not only the won-loss record, but the championships, how his teams have played, his effect on the community, the city of size of New York, the way he embraces the job, the way players respond to him, the success they had, a city and a region support the man. I think it’s hard to find any cracks in the foundation.”

But Torre’s 14 seasons managing the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals were far less successful, as he compiled an 894-1,003 mark. Colletti downplayed the correlation between Torre’s success and the Yankees’ league-high payroll, which peaked at more than $208 million in 2005 and was almost $190 million last season. The Dodgers’ payroll was almost $109 million in 2007, when they finished fourth.

Colletti also said he didn’t think that leading a young Dodgers club would be an issue for Torre, who had teams loaded with veterans in New York.

In Torre’s first seasons in New York, Colletti said, “there was a young Derek Jeter, there was a young Mariano Rivera and a young Bernie Williams. So he’s managed young players before.”

Colletti added Torre’s demeanor should help calm a clubhouse that was fragmented last season, as unproductive veterans who were losing playing time started to resent their younger teammates.

Colletti was vague when asked to recount the process of hiring Torre. He said he first had contact with Torre “two days ago. Less than a week. Four days ago, maybe.” Among the few details he offered were that they started talking about a contract “seriously” in the preceding 48 hours and that he met Torre in person in “the last couple days.” He said that the McCourts also had met Torre.

But Colletti made it clear he thought Torre had the necessary drive for the position.

“From the very get-go, I asked him, ‘So you really want to get back into something like this when you have the opportunity to probably do different things?’ ” Colletti said. “He looked at me and he said, ‘There’s no doubt in my mind what I want to do and where I want to do it.’ I don’t have any doubts that his appetite is there and that he’s up for the challenge.”

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The Dodgers bought out the $9-million option on left-hander Randy Wolf’s contract for $500,000.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Dodgers managers

Previous major league managerial experience of L.A. Dodgers managers:

WALTER ALSTON, 1954-76

- No managerial experience.

TOM LASORDA, 1977-96

- No managerial experience.

BILL RUSSELL, 1996-98

- No managerial experience.

GLENN HOFFMAN, 1998

- No managerial experience.

DAVEY JOHNSON, 1999-2000

- New York Mets (1984-90)

- Cincinnati (1993-95)

- Baltimore (1996-97)

JIM TRACY, 2001-05

- No managerial experience.

GRADY LITTLE, 2006-07

- Boston (2002-03)

JOE TORRE, 2008-

- New York Mets (1977-81)

- Atlanta (1982-84)

- St. Louis (1990-95)

- New York Yankees (1996-2007)


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