AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will be back next season.
Roberts led the team to its seventh straight NL West title and a franchise-record 106 wins — second-most in the majors — but he’s been criticized for his pitching decisions in losing Game 5 of the NL Division Series to Washington. His in-game tactics during the team’s losses in the 2017 and ’18 World Series drew some disapproval, too.
Friedman said Monday he was surprised by speculation about Roberts’ status. The manager signed a contract extension through the 2022 season last November.
“When the season ends as abruptly as it did, and it’s one of the more painful losses that I can remember, the whole thing is focusing on how we get to winning those 11 games in October,” Friedman said. “In our mind Dave is absolutely a part of that.”
Friedman said he expects his own extension to be finalized in the next few days. His $35 million, five-year deal expires at the end of this month.
Friedman defended Roberts’ performance in his four years with the team, including NL pennants in 2017 and ’18.
“By and large, the body of work is really strong,” he said. “By and large, the reason why things are done are really sound and something that I feel like our (staff) guys have a really good feel and pulse on.”
In other matters:
— Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, 65, will transition to a special assistant role next season, which would be his 15th with the Dodgers.
— Kenley Jansen, coming off the worst season of his career, likely will continue as the team’s closer next year. “There were decent chunks of time this year when everything synced up and his stuff was objectively better, and other times he struggled more,” Friedman said. “I think it’s about his delivery. The focus will be to lock that down and repeat more consistently. I’m excited of what he’s capable of next year. His role, I don’t exactly know right now.”
— Friedman defended using Clayton Kershaw in a high-leverage situation out of the bullpen in Game 5. The three-time Cy Young Award winner gave up homers on consecutive pitches that tied the game. “I think Kershaw is not exactly the same pitcher he was three years ago, but I still think he was a really good pitcher this year,” he said. “I can’t remember feeling better about any one player than Kershaw in terms of how much he cares, how much he prepares and how much he pours into it. That’s all we can ask for from a player. Then it’s about us lining up and assessing talent, and I feel like we had a room full of people that did everything they could and put everything they had into us winning 11 games in October.”
— Right-hander Kenta Maeda will again return to the starting rotation next year after closing out this season in the bullpen. Friedman said he needs to improve his command against left-handed hitters.
— Friedman acknowledged the fans’ disappointment about the team losing early in the postseason and extending its World Series title drought to 31 years.
“It was heart-wrenching in a lot of ways,” he said. “I know going into the playoffs we definitely had a team talented enough to win a World Series. We didn’t do it. We have to figure out what we can take away from that.”