Dodgers offence runs through leadoff hitters

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Ned Colletti enjoys the past.

He's trying to restore polish to one of baseball's most dominant franchises as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Colletti hopes to get the Dodgers to where they were when L.A. won the World Series three times in seven years (1959, 1963, 1965) using the same recipe: Pitching, defence and speed.

This season, Colletti expects 200 runs and 100 stolen bases from the top two men in the batting order shortstop Rafael Furcal and centre fielder Juan Pierre.

Manager Grady Little has back-to-back, leadoff men atop his order. Furcal, the former Atlanta Brave, scored 113 runs and stole 37 bases in 50 tries in 2006 with the Dodgers.

Free agent Pierre was signed this off-season after scoring 87 runs and stealing 58 of 78 attempts with the Chicago Cubs.

Those two combing to score 200 runs and swipe 100 bases is not outlandish. Colletti says the Dodgers haven't had speed like this since Maury Wills and Willie Davis.

Wills scored 130 runs and stole 104 bases in 1962, while Davis scored 103 times and garnered 32 steals.

Some will say Colletti is taking this approach because he doesn't have a choice. There are not any 40-homer bats in his lineup. Little says his leading home run hitter might be his No. 8 hitter, either third baseman Wilson Betemit or right fielder Andre Ethier.

Nomar Garciaparra and the departed J.D. Drew led the Dodgers with 20 homers in 2006, while Drew and Garciaparra were first and second respectively in RBIs.

Los Angeles is loaded in the rotation, adding free agents Jason Schmidt (11-9, 3.59 ERA with the San Francisco Giants) and Randy Wolf (4-0, 5.56, Philadelphia Phillies) to Derek Lowe (16-8, 3.68), Brad Penny (16-9, 4.33) and Chad Billingsley (7-4, 3.80).

If Colletti's sense of baseball history is as good as his hockey history, Los Angeles will be in the post-season, just like in 2006. Growing up in Franklin Park, Ill., he played hockey on a frozen river.

"The other kids, Black Hawks fans wore either No. 9 for Bobby Hull or No. 21 for Stan Mikita," Colletti said. "I was the only one wearing No. 4, and a red sweater. Jean Beliveau was my favourite player."

Colletti attended East Leyden High School, the same school attended by Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, former Raptors GM Glen Grunwald and ex-NBA coach Jimmy Rodgers. The Dodgers boss was inducted into the Triton College Hall of Fame in 1993, along with big leaguers Kirby Puckett, Lance Johnson and Jeff Reboulet.

TOUGH TIMES FOR DAMO

Los Angeles Angels coach Alfredo Griffin says his former Blue Jays double-play partner, Damo Garcia, lies in a hospital in the Dominican Republic unable to speak. Garcia underwent surgery for a brain tumour in 1993 and recovered enough to be honoured at the SkyDome in 1996.

"When you talk to him and tell him stories, he sometimes squeezes your hand as a sign of recognition," Griffin said.

TWO IN A ROW

On the Acorn, co-owned by former Montreal Expos and Angels manager Buck Rodgers, has won back-to-back starts at Santa Anita going into tomorrow's $150,000 US San Luis Obispo Handicap.

The ownership group, Indizguys Stable, includes Hall of Fame baseball scribe Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times, former NFLer Paul Salata, originator of Irrelevant Week to honour the final player chosen in the draft, Jack Disney, former Los Angeles Herald-Examiner writer and Rodgers.

Ex-Blue Jays coach Bobby Knoop, a teammate of Rodgers with the Angels, reports Rodgers is not the jockey. The turf horse is ridden by Brice Blanc.


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