Mattingly dreams of managing in bigs

Mattingly to succeed Torre? It could happen

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Don Mattingly hung up his spikes and called it a career, he knew that someday he would get back into the game as a coach. He just didn't know when.

It turned out to be 2004, as Mattingly slipped back into the only big-league uniform he ever wore, taking a job as Yankees manager Joe Torre's hitting coach.

Now in his third season, Mattingly knows that someday he would like a chance to manage in the Majors. He just doesn't know when.

"I'm not saying I'm ready now, but I think it's something I can do," Mattingly said. "I've always felt like I can do anything I put my mind to. If I want to do it -- if I'm willing to learn and get better at it -- I can do anything."

Mattingly got a little practice on Thursday, sitting in for Torre during the team's split-squad game at Legends Field against the Astros.

It was the second time this spring that Mattingly served as manager, as Torre wanted to bring bench coach Lee Mazzilli and third-base coach Larry Bowa with him to the Yankees' other split-squad game.

Despite the presence of former big-league managers Mazzilli, Bowa, Tony Pena and Joe Kerrigan on the coaching staff, it is widely assumed that Mattingly will take over for Torre whenever he decides to hand over the reins.

It wouldn't be so preposterous, considering that Mattingly has seen three of his fellow coaches -- Mazzilli, Willie Randolph and Joe Girardi -- land their first managing jobs in the past two-plus years.

During his playing career, Mattingly would think about being a manager from time to time, though he said he didn't have all that much time to spend dwelling on the topic.

With a job to do as the Yankees' first baseman, captain and face of the team, Mattingly would simply observe how his various managers conducted their business, dealt with players and handled the game.

None of them impressed Mattingly as much as Torre has during his tenure in New York.

"He makes it look easier than it is," Mattingly said. "There's a lot that goes on, the decisions he's making, but he does it so easily."

Mattingly points to Torre's handling of his players away from the field as one of the most important aspects of his job, noting that the manager often sees things from a big-picture standpoint that other people might overlook.

"He's very patient with the guys, and Joe really understands the length of the season," Mattingly said. "He understands the day-in, day-out, long course of the year. He sees everything; Joe doesn't miss anything. If a guy seems like he is a little bothered by something, he sees it right away."

Last spring, Mattingly had a situation of his own to deal with, as he worked closely with Jason Giambi, who was being scrutinized after a winter loaded with controversy stemming from the BALCO case.

"We came into camp saying, 'Jason, it's going to be a rough year. I don't care what happens, it's going to be a rough year,'" Mattingly said. "It started out like that, he had to answer a lot of questions, but he finally turned it around."

Giambi has credited Mattingly with playing a major role in that turnaround, both on and off the field. Mattingly worked with Giambi in the cage every day during the season, trying to get the slugger back to his MVP form of 2000.

"I'm happy for him from the standpoint of what he went through last year," Mattingly said. "It couldn't have ended much better for him than it did. We came into this spring with Jason in a positive frame of mind and with us confident in what he can do."

Giambi, who closed the season with 32 homers, 87 RBIs and the American League's Comeback Player of the Year Award, believes that Mattingly will be a good manager -- as long as he's willing to give up the one-on-one time he currently spends with players.

"Donnie likes to have the interaction, he's so good with what he does, and as a manager, you have to oversee everything," Giambi said. "You lose that closeness to guys that he develops.

"If he wants to do it, he'll be great. He knows the game very well."

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