Pierre is unsure of his future with team

Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- A little more than a year ago, Juan Pierre signed a five-year, $44-million contract to play center field for the Dodgers.

Monday, he stood in front of a group of reporters describing a situation that was “out of my hands” and hinting that his future could include a move to another team.

Forced out of the only position he has played in the major leagues because of the signing of 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones and thrust into a battle for playing time in left field with Andre Ethier, Pierre said he understood why the Dodgers did what they did this winter. He expressed no anger and made no trade demands. He said he wanted to remain a Dodger.


But he also said he didn’t know how the club perceived him.

“I know I’m going to go out to try to bust my tail to make myself better as well as the team,” Pierre said. “At the end of the day, hopefully, they could see that I could benefit the team. And, if not, it’s one of those situations where they might get rid of me or something.”

Later in the day, he was asked about a no-trade provision in his contract, which is limited to five teams. He strongly hinted that he would waive the clause if asked, saying its particulars weren’t important because “I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted.”

But it’s unlikely that the Dodgers would be able to trade Pierre without agreeing to pay part of the $36.5 million he is owed over the next four seasons.

General Manager Ned Colletti said he considered Pierre a key component of the team, calling him “a strong asset” and “a championship-type player.” Colletti pointed to Pierre’s numbers -- 196 hits and 64 stolen bases -- last season and said that his talents could be better showcased if the middle of the order, which now includes Jones, is more productive when Pierre is in scoring position.

Pierre said he had no problem with the Dodgers wanting to add Jones’ bat, noting that he could never generate that kind of power (Pierre had no home runs in 668 at-bats last season). But what bothered him, he said, was hearing comments about how the Dodgers “finally got a center fielder” by acquiring Jones.

“That kind of hurt a little bit because it’s like I wasn’t out there in center field,” said Pierre, whose below-average arm was a liability.

He acknowledged that his on-base percentage of .331 last season was something he had to improve.

“I’m quite sure there are some people in L.A. who don’t like my game and you have some people who do like it,” Pierre said. “I know my game’s not pretty. I know it’s not going to be in the box scores, I’m not going to be the guy all over ‘SportsCenter.’ Some people value it and some people don’t. Hopefully, the people that make the decisions do.”


Tom Lasorda will manage what probably will be the Dodgers’ final games in Vero Beach, Fla.

When Manager Joe Torre leaves camp with a split squad March 11 to play two exhibition games in China, the remaining players will be handed over to Lasorda, who won World Series titles in 1981 and ’88. Now a special advisor to owner Frank McCourt, Lasorda will manage the club over their final eight days in the Grapefruit League.

Most of the projected opening-day roster is expected to remain in Florida with Lasorda, as Jones, Matt Kemp and Nomar Garciaparra are the only regulars tentatively scheduled to go to China. Others who probably will go to Beijing include Mark Sweeney, Ramon Martinez, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-Lung Hu. Most of the pitchers are expected to remain in Vero Beach so that their throwing schedules aren’t disrupted.


Don Mattingly, who stepped down as hitting coach last month because of an impending divorce, was in camp in his new role as special assignment coach. He will remain in Vero Beach until part of the team leaves for China.

The former New York Yankees first baseman said he hoped to be on the Dodgers’ coaching staff next season, but added, “I don’t want to make any decisions right now.” He said his main priority was for him to be in Indiana with his 16-year-old son, Jordon, in this time of transition.

Mattingly’s original contract with the Dodgers, which included two guaranteed years and an option for a third, was torn up and replaced with a one-year deal. But Mattingly said he viewed his commitment to the Dodgers as something long-term.

“They showed me a lot of respect,” he said. “I really would like to return that if they want me.”

Of the Yankees’ managerial position, for which he was a finalist this winter, he said, “I’m really grateful I didn’t get it. You talk about unanswered prayers.”


Sandy Koufax was in camp for the second day in a row and helped Scott Proctor and Chan Ho Park with their mechanics.