LOS ANGELES (AP) Don Mattingly isn’t in immediate danger of being fired as manager of the last-place Los Angeles Dodgers, with team president Stan Kasten saying none of the players are asking for his dismissal, either.

“I do expect things to turn around. I expect Donnie to be here for a long time,” Kasten said Friday before the Dodgers opened a three-game series against NL Central-leading St. Louis.

“I understand there is another side of that if things don’t go well. I don’t think of things like that. I don’t look at things that way. I choose to believe we’re going to be fine.”

Mattingly is in the third and final year of his contract, with no extension on the table.

“This is not a guy who the players are trying to get rid of. These players are not coming to the front office and saying, `Please get this guy out of here,'” Kasten said. “It’s the opposite. This is a group of guys who love and respect Don. And I think this latest plea for a greater sense of urgency will be well received. I hope it is. It should be.”

For his part, Mattingly didn’t appear worried about his future.

“If your team doesn’t play well, someone is going to go and it isn’t going to be them,” he said. “It’s all about how we play. That’s the only thing I really stress over.”

The Dodgers entered Friday last in the NL West, six games behind first-place Arizona. They have a 19-26 record despite a $215 million payroll and a talent-laden lineup that has struggled offensively.

“By far we’re not out of it,” Andre Ethier said. “If we can work our way back into it by the All-Star break, it should be someplace we want to be.”

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have started to come around. Crawford is hitting .302 with five homers and 13 RBI, and Gonzalez is batting .319 with four homers and 29 RBI.

But All-Star sluggers Matt Kemp and Ethier have not.

Kemp is hitting .270 with two home runs and 17 RBI, while Ethier is hitting .264, with four homers and 15 RBI. The team has been hit with a rash of injuries since the start of the season, especially among the starting rotation.

“I expect the players who have been struggling to get back to their historical records of performance,” Kasten said. “If that happens, I think we’re going to be just fine. We won’t be as good as we can be until Matt returns to being the real Matt Kemp.”

Mattingly on Friday didn’t back away from his critical comments earlier in the week that came after he benched Ethier for the third time in six games during the team’s trip to Atlanta and Milwaukee.

At the time, he said he was “putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest.”

“Really I’m just speaking from my heart. It wasn’t an attack on anybody,” Mattingly said. “It’s my belief about the way to play baseball. You’ve got to be willing to fight for what you want.”

Earlier in the week, Ethier said he took offense to Mattingly’s comments. The manager said he and Ethier talked for 20 minutes on Wednesday.

“Andre knows exactly where I’m coming from,” he said.

Ethier was back in the lineup on Friday, but Mattingly’s “words about the competing part, that bothers me. That’s all people hear, they don’t readicon1 Kasten Says Mattingly Will Be Staying With Dodgers For A Long Time about the other stuff,” he said.

Asked if thought he would be traded, Ethier said, “I have no idea. It’s nothing I’m assuming or looking into. I know what commitment level is here and it’s never wavered.”

Mattingly has long defended his players in the mold of his mentor and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, so his sudden public outspokenness had triggerd rampant speculation that he was on his way out.

“It hasn’t been that bad, honestly,” he said. “It’s just a little stormy.”


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