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Dodgers make additions to international scouting

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers president Stan Kasten and general manager Ned Colletti emerged Monday from the first organizational meetings under new ownership pleased with early offseason changes.

"I feel really, really good about the baseball operations side," Kasten said after a flurry of offseason front-office moves. "We're pretty much done. These were important offseason moves."

One offseason move that was rumor and not fact was the shopping of right fielder Andre Ethier, Colletti said.

"I haven't talked to one team about Ethier. I haven't called a team and no team has called me," said Colletti. "I told that to Nez [Balelo, Ethier's agent] two weeks ago when the first tweeter went viral, or whatever they do."

Colletti said the hiring spree is probably over after essentially acquiring the international scouting staff of the Seattle Mariners. Two weeks ago the Dodgers hired Bob Engle as vice president of international scouting and Monday they brought on six of his Mariners staff -- Pedro Avila, Gene Grimaldi, Patrick Guerrero, Pat Kelly, Jamey Storvick and Mike Tosar.

The Dodgers on Monday also announced the additions of Josh Bard as special assistant, player personnel and professional scouts Willie Fraser and Scott Groot. Former Dodgers third baseman Bill Mueller, who served as special assistant, player personnel, will become a full-time professional scout.

The Dodgers earlier added senior advisor Gerry Hunsicker, special assistant Pat Corrales and hitting coach Mark McGwire.

"Anybody we really liked we have here," said Colletti, who said it's a good sign that industry professionals want to work for the Dodgers.

The club is expected to finalize coaching staff assignments later this week, with speculation that John Valentin will be promoted from Triple-A hitting coach to assistant big league hitting coach, bullpen coach Ken Howell will become assistant pitching coach to Rick Honeycutt and Double-A pitching coach Chuck Crim will be promoted to Major League bullpen coach.

Howell, who turns 52 later this month, has been sidelined several times in the last five years with ailments related to diabetes, including five weeks this year. In the new alignment, Howell will continue to work and travel with the Major League club, but will also have the flexibility to occasionally work with pitchers in the Minor League system. If he needs a break for health reasons, the Major League team won't be disrupted by his absence.

Beefing up the international scouting staff is the latest follow through to promises by Kasten and Colletti that the Dodgers would re-establish their presence outside of North America.

"The fact the Dodgers were dead last in international signings, that was hard to believe," said Kasten. "For me, it's a priority, and not just signing players as the end result, but getting the people to sign the players."

"We've doubled the size of the [international] scouting operation," said Colletti. "A couple years ago when we traded veterans, we looked at other organizations and saw a lot of the successful teams got a lot of players not born in the U.S. It was time for us to get back invested in it."

They are definitely getting invested, considering the $42 million signing of Cuban Yasiel Puig and on Saturday by posting the winning bid for Korean left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin. The Dodgers have 30 days to work out a deal with Ryu or he returns to South Korea and the Dodgers keep the winning bid of $25,737,737.33. The numbers three and seven are good luck in Korea.

"Stan picked the first two numbers and I picked the next seven," said Colletti.

"Funny," said Kasten, "but not true."

Kasten and Colletti said the international hires were influential in the pursuit of Ryu, although both also hinted that an agreement is no slam dunk, whether for posturing purposes or otherwise.

"We still have decisions depending on how other things work out," said Kasten.

"Maybe there will be more than one pitcher [the club pursues]," said Colletti, who is believed to still be interested in signing Hiroki Kuroda or Ryan Dempster, although Zack Greinke now seems off the table.

Engle said Ryu is a power pitcher with a physique "somewhat on the rotund side" like David Wells, but Major League ready.

"He definitely could come in and be a contributor to a Major League club almost immediately," said Engle. "We think he can compete for a Major League starter spot. He can reach back and get a little bit extra. He has real good mound presence, command of his pitches and himself."

The new international staff assignments: Avila will be coordinator of Venezuela operations, Grimaldi will be coordinator of European operations, Guerrero will be coordinator of Latin America, Kelly will be coordinator of the Pacific Rim, Storvick will be special assignment scout in the Pacific Rim and Tosar will be coordinator of Cuba and Mexico.

Los Angeles Dodgers