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Colletti to focus on pitching in upcoming offseason

LOS ANGELES -- It was time to turn the page for Dodgers officials Thursday, as general manager Ned Colletti said starting pitching tops his offseason wish list and shortstop is probably where Hanley Ramirez will play next year with Luis Cruz at third base.

Colletti acknowledged that most of his offseason shopping is already finished from the midseason spending spree on Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. Each is signed through 2013, most well beyond.

"And the free-agent shopping we didn't do a year ago we did in August, as well," he said, adding that no current Dodgers are on the trade block.

Colletti confirmed that Clayton Kershaw is not planning hip surgery for an impingement.

"The way it was described to me, there's a good chance it won't come back," Colletti said.

There's enough uncertainty with Ted Lilly coming off shoulder surgery and Chad Billingsley trying to avoid elbow surgery that Colletti said if he has a priority, starting pitching is it. Four spots are already secure with Kershaw, Beckett, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

That could mean re-signing Joe Blanton, or diving into a free-agent market that includes Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy and Kyle Lohse.

In the infield, Colletti said he's leaning toward Ramirez at short and Cruz at third.

"Why not Hanley at short?" he asked. "And did you watch Cruz play? I'm not talking that it's in stone, but here on Oct. 4, that's where we're at. Hanley can be a little better than he was at short. But 24 home runs and drive in 92, that's tough to find at that spot."

While Kershaw won't have surgery and Billingsley will know by the end of the month if he can dodge Tommy John elbow reconstruction, the outcome of Matt Kemp's left shoulder surgery Friday should guide Colletti in plans for the outfield.

"I'm under the presumption he's going to be fine, until I know differently," he said.

Colletti said Crawford should be healed enough from Tommy John surgery to be ready to hit in Spring Training and play in April, even if his throwing arm comes along later. Jerry Hairston will be returning from hip surgery, Tony Gwynn is still under contract and the club might exercise its option to keep Juan Rivera, all candidates to back up Crawford.

In any case, with a $100 million investment in Crawford, the Dodgers aren't in the market for an everyday outfielder (meaning they won't re-sign Shane Victorino) unless they get unexpected bad news on Kemp.

There's also a wild card in 21-year-old Yasiel Puig, the $42 million Cuban signee who will be in big-league training camp because he's on the 40-man roster. Colletti wouldn't even rule out Puig forcing his way into the outfield mix for 2012, praising Puig's power, speed and arm the way Dodgers officials did with a young Matt Kemp years ago.

"Too early to say yes or no," Colletti said of Puig's readiness. "He's going to Fall League and that will be another indicator for us. I'll tell you this: when you have your back to the batting cage, when he hits, you know he's hitting."

Colletti said he would like to keep the Dodgers' three free-agent pitchers -- Brandon League, Jamey Wright and Randy Choate -- particularly closer League, who has already told the club he'd like to stay. League emerged as the closer when Kenley Jansen had a relapse of an irregular heartbeat. Jansen is scheduled for a surgical procedure to correct a defect and will be inactive most of the winter. Wright, the veteran swingman, also said on Wednesday that he wants to return "big-time."

Colletti said he isn't sure what kept his upgraded lineup for producing down the stretch.

"I don't know if it was players trying to do too much or a matter of injuries or what," he said. "If I knew what would have fixed it, we would have fixed it."

But he said he knows one thing that needs to be fixed.

"As I look back, I really believe we need to get better on our record inside the division," he said of the Dodgers' 35-37 record within the NL West. "That's a key thing. We have to get better."

Los Angeles Angels, Carl Crawford, Aaron Harang, Kenley Jansen, Brandon League, Yasiel Puig, Nick Punto, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Jamey Wright