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Don’t expect big roster shift for Dodgers

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Fans who believe the Dodgers’ recent form is a true measure of the team’s ability will like what they’re about to read. Those who are convinced it’s an aberration will be mortified.

General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Don Mattingly don’t think the Dodgers have to overhaul their roster next season.

“I don’t think we’re that far away,” Colletti said.

A season-worst 14 games under .500 on July 6, the Dodgers improved to 72-72 with a 3-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. They 15-3 over their last 17 games.

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“You do it with the pitching, you do it with defense,” Mattingly said. “That’s what makes us as competitive as we’ve been. It’s no real magic that’s happened in the last two weeks, other than putting the offense together. Everything else has been the same.”

Colletti acknowledged they have to add some key components, saying, “I think we probably need another player or two who are difference makers.”

Pointing to how the July acquisition of Juan Rivera transformed the pitching-heavy Dodgers’ previously-impotent offense, Colletti and Mattingly said their top priority this winter is to land a run producer.

Colletti said owner Frank McCourt has yet to tell him what the Dodgers would and wouldn’t be able to afford. But assuming they lack the resources to offer eight-figure deals to Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, there might not be that kind of player available.

“I think the last few years, the free-agent market hasn’t been as robust as it was before,” Colletti said.

In the price range at which the Dodgers have shopped in recent years — say, $20 million to $50 million — there are no sure bets. Last winter, they signed Juan Uribe to a three-year, $21-million contract and he rewarded them by batting .204 with four home runs. Had they spent $35 million more and signed Adam Dunn, the results would have been comparable. Dunn is batting .162 with 11 home runs for the Chicago White Sox.

Reminded that a shortage of starting pitchers led to the Dodgers’ demise last season, Colletti was asked whether he was comfortable adding offense at the expense of pitching. With Hiroki Kuroda eligible for free agency after the season, the Dodgers will head into the winter without a fifth starter for 2012.

“It has to be the right bat,” Colletti said. “If the right bat’s not available, then it’s got to be somebody else.”

Colletti said the team’s recent turnaround indicates the team has something on which to build.

“That’s a beautiful plus,” he said. “It tells you who they are.

“A lot of times when you have a team with expectations and you fall 13 back, 14 back, whatever it was, and double digits under .500, a lot of those teams go home. They have the makings of a really negative August and September.”

Colletti said he has a high enough opinion of this group of players that he wants most of them to come back.

“There are a lot of players in this room who are going to be free agents,” Colletti said. There’s a pretty strong percentage of those we would like to retain.”

Nine players on the active roster or disabled list will be eligible for free agency this winter — Kuroda, Rivera, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Rod Barajas, Jon Garland, Vicente Padilla and Mike MacDougal. The Dodgers hold a team option for Casey Blake they are expected to decline.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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