Little praises Schmidt, likes LA roster

Little praises Schmidt, likes LA roster

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After insisting to reporters that there wasn't a done deal with Jason Schmidt as far as he knew, Grady Little was willing to discuss what it's like managing against the likely new ace of his staff.

"It seems every time we see that he's pitching in our series, he wasn't the pitcher we were looking forward to facing," Little said of Schmidt, who told former teammates he was close to accepting a three-year, $47 million contract from the Dodgers.

"You know he'll be out there a long time. We have to keep the game close until he gets tired and try to get the next guy. With our situation last year, we like a starting pitcher every time he got past the fifth inning."

Moving on to other areas of his club, Little told reporters at the Winter Meetings that he liked his roster the way it was, even with an apparent shortage of outfielders and the front office clearly in pursuit of upgrades.

"We had Marlon Anderson playing every day down the stretch and he's still here on this team," Little said.

Little, who was hired during last year's Winter Meetings, said he's prepared to bat new center fielder Juan Pierre leadoff and drop Rafael Furcal into the No. 3 slot, assuming a power bat is not acquired. In that scenario, Russell Martin might move up to second, with Jeff Kent fourth and Nomar Garciaparra fifth.

"If something's not working," Little said, "we'll change it."

Little echoed comments from general manager Ned Colletti that left-handed reliever Joe Beimel would be welcomed back to the club. Beimel sliced his pitching hand in a bar incident two nights before the playoffs opened. In the face of bitter criticism from some teammates, he apologized in a team meeting and was not seen again.

"Joe meant a lot to the club," said Little. "It was unfortunate circumstances he got into. It's something he's learned from. I'm looking forward to having him back on our club."

Little said Mike Lieberthal, whose acquisition was announced Wednesday, will be a welcome addition as a backup to Martin, who missed the first five weeks of the season and still caught 117 games.

"I think if [Martin] catches as much as last year, he's gonna need a little bit more time off than I gave him last year and I talked to Mike; he knows the situation that we're in there in L.A.," said Little. "He knows what we think about Russell Martin, and he is ready to do whatever we need him to do, whether it's catch one day a week, one day over ten days, whatever it is. But Mike Lieberthal is a local kid, a local man there from L.A., and we are glad to have him on the club."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.