Dodgers’ Don Mattingly expects to start season without a new contract

Don Mattingly will have to do a lot of lineup juggling over the next couple of weeks.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Don Mattingly said he expects to start the season without a new contract and said the Dodgers’ ownership might want to consider replacing him as manager if the team fails to reach the playoffs.

“If we don’t win and we’re healthy, they really should look at it,” Mattingly said Sunday. “This team has a lot of talent. My job, and my coaches’ job, is to get them to play the game right.

“If we can’t get them to play the game right, they may have the wrong voice. There’s a ton of talent here.”

The guaranteed portion of Mattingly’s contract expires after this season. The Dodgers have declined his request to exercise his 2014 option.

Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ controlling owner, told The Times last month that the team has had discussions with Mattingly about a new contract. Mattingly said Sunday the discussions have been general in nature and said he has made clear he would love to stay with the Dodgers so long as the owners and management retain confidence in him.

“I like who I am working for,” he said. “I feel confident in what I am doing.”

The Dodgers are expected to field a player payroll of about $230 million, the highest in major league history. By asking the Dodgers to pick up his option, Mattingly said he hoped to erase the potential distraction of players’ hearing questions about his job status with every losing streak.

However, Mattingly said he understands his status and is not upset about it. From this point on, he said, he would rather prepare the players for the season than talk publicly about his contract.

“I’m not complaining about anything,” he said.

The Dodgers have not reached the playoffs in Mattingly’s first two years as manager, although they posted winning records both times, with cut-rate payrolls that reflected the cash flow problems of former owner Frank McCourt.

This is the first full year under the Dodgers’ new and rich ownership, the last year of Mattingly’s contract.

“I always played under one-year deals,” Mattingly said. “I like playing like that. It keeps you on a little bit of an edge.”

Matt Kemp hits

Center fielder Matt Kemp picked up his first two hits of the spring, both singles, in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. He had been hitless in his first 14 at-bats, including six strikeouts.

Kemp said he was “not panicking at all,” even coming off shoulder surgery and no matter how anxious fans might have been. As a veteran, he said, he is more concerned about rhythm and timing than results.

“I can actually come to spring training and work on things,” Kemp said. “I don’t think I’m fighting for a job.”

Juan Uribe hits too

The Dodgers do not appear inclined to release infielder Juan Uribe, who has one year and $8 million left on his contract. Uribe is most experienced at shortstop, but Mattingly said he would play Nick Punto there ahead of Uribe when Hanley Ramirez needs a day off.

However, Uribe is adapting well to first base, and the Dodgers want him to back up there and at third base. On Sunday, he hit a three-run home run and started a nice first-to-short-to-first double play.