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Don Mattingly finally comfortable with second storied franchise

Manager Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during batting practice prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. (Oct. 11, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. - For Don Mattingly, in Dodgers blue, the present remains linked with the past, when he wore Yankees pinstripes.

"I was around quality people,'' said Mattingly, whose entire 14-year playing career from 1982-95 was with the Yankees. "People that tried to play the game the right way and tried to be excellent in everything they did.

"I feel the same way about the Dodgers, a great family organization, a groundbreaking organization from Jackie [Robinson] to bringing baseball west. I'm proud to be a part of this."

Especially now that in his fourth year as manager after replacing Joe Torre, Mattingly, 52, at last has security. He was given a three-year contract extension in January, perhaps because after the Dodgers made the playoffs last fall, he said that entering 2014 with another one-year contract would make him a lame duck.

If there was disenchantment, it has gone. "I don't have to worry about any of that stuff now," Mattingly said. "I can just worry about the game."

The six-time All-Star -- whose No. 23 was retired by the Yankees, who won the 1985 American League MVP, who won nine Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards and was nicknamed "Donnie Baseball" -- added, "I just want to concentrate on baseball."

There's plenty of baseball and history at the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch complex about 20 miles west of Phoenix. Sandy Koufax, 78, was on a walkway facing a line of maybe 80 people waiting for autographs. Tommy Lasorda, 86, stood behind a cage watching batting practice.

"This," Mattingly said, "is just where I want to be."

He meant both with the Dodgers, who won 42 of 50 games during one stretch last season, and in the excitement and anticipation of spring training.

"It all starts over," Mattingly said in what hardly sounded like a cliche. "And that's the thing we love. We're all back at square one. Everybody's hopeful. The Giants have been on that every-other-year program, and it's that year. So that scares me."

It's the Dodgers' pitching that scares the other teams. Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is followed by Zack Greinke, who is followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu.

"You look at the top three," Mattingly said, "and they are really solid guys, really going to be consistent. Then add the experience of Danny Haren, and there's a front-of-the-rotation guy. Josh Beckett still can be effective."

Mattingly surely was effective as a manager, although when the team with the $230- million payroll started poorly, he was being ripped on call-in shows and, which was disclosed later, warned by general manager Stan Kasten that he could be fired if the Dodgers didn't start winning.

"The tough part is the relationship with the media, talking every day, and dealing with ownership and the people above you who you're responsible to,'' Mattingly said. "That's the part of managing I never had any access to [as a player], so that's been a learning experience."

He has learned. So have his players.

"You've got to build respect personally with guys," Mattingly said in January. "How you treat them is truly going to get you respect. But when the organization shows you that respect from upper management, it sends a message to the players they trust this guy."


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