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New Dodger owners clean house, fire manager Russell, GM Claire

SHARE New Dodger owners clean house, fire manager Russell, GM Claire

The floundering Los Angeles Dodgers fired manager Bill Russell and longtime general manager Fred Claire late Sunday - the latest major shake-up under new Fox ownership.

Russell will be replaced by Glenn Hoffman, manager of the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, and Claire will be replaced by Tom Lasorda, a team vice president and the club's longtime manager.Both Hoffman, the older brother of San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman, and Lasorda will serve on an interim basis, according to president Bob Graziano. Lasorda said he will help the team search for Claire's permanent replacement.

"I didn't know anything about it," said Lasorda, who retired as manager in 1996 and was succeeded by Russell.

Last season, the Dodgers went 88-74 under Russell and finished second in the NL West. They are 36-38 this year, 121/2 games behind first-place San Diego.

Graziano said he made the decision to fire Russell and Claire in consultation with former owner Peter O'Malley, who sold the team to Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Corp. in a deal completed in January.

"Peter and I have spent a lot of time meeting over the last few days talking about how to improve our team and get it back on track," Graziano said.

"I did let the people at Fox know about the decision I was making. They fully support it "

The dismissals come after the Dodgers recently traded catcher Mike Piazza, who eventually ended up with the New York Mets, and pitcher Hideo Nomo, who also went to the Mets.

The team has been troubled by injuries to staff ace Ramon Martinez, Bobby Bonilla, Todd Hollandsworth, Eric Young and Jose Vizcaino. Bonilla, Young and Vizcaino were part of the blockbuster trade involving Piazza.

"You can't just answer every injury. You lose your No. 1 starting pitcher and you can't go out and just find another starting pitcher," Claire said before being fired. "You can't go out and find a starting third baseman."

Martinez went on the disabled list Friday because of a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. A day later, Bonilla joined him on the DL because of an intestinal infection acquired on the team's recent road trip.

Los Angeles had already lost Hollandsworth to the 60-day DL, while Young has missed time twice with a strained right quadricep muscle. Vizcaino is out with a sprained right ankle.

The Dodgers inserted Dennis Reyes into Martinez's spot in the rotation and had rookie Paul Konerko take over for Bonilla at third.

"Those two are doing the best they can, but they have yet to establish themselves," Russell said before being dismissed. "You don't replace a Bobby Bonilla, a left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. You don't replace a Ramon Martinez. They are your everyday starters."

Graziano said Russell and Claire "always gave 100 percent to their jobs so they were disappointed that that effort wasn't enough."

"Fact of the matter is we haven't been getting our job done," Graziano said.

After the Piazza trade was engineered by Fox executive Chase Carey, Claire openly complained that he had no knowledge of the deal until it was done.

Graziano said he decided on Hoffman as interim manager after recommendations from several people, including Lasorda.

"I think Glen was a natural," he said.

Hoffman led Albuquerque to a 62-79 record in his first season. He was forced to play 49 different players because of injuries and promotions. He oversaw the development of Konerko.

Hoffman played nine major league seasons as an infielder with Boston, the Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels.

Russell, 49, was an All-Star shortstop three times during his 18 seasons playing for the Dodgers. He was the team's infield and bench coach from 1987-91 before managing Albuquerque from 1992-93 and compiling a 136-150 record.

Claire, 62, was in his 30th season with the Dodgers and his 12th as general manager. He took over after Al Campanis was fired in 1987 for controversial remarks about blacks lacking "the necessities" to become managers or executives. Campanis died earlier Sunday at age 81.

Under Claire's tenure, the Dodgers produced five of the last six NL rookies of the year - Eric Karros, Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Nomo and Hollandsworth.

In his second season as general manager in 1988, Los Angeles won the World Series with players he acquired, including Kirk Gibson, Mickey Hatcher, Rick Dempsey, Jay Howell, Alfredo Griffin and Tim Belcher.