Dodgers mantra: 'You can do better'

LOS ANGELES -- Juan Uribe had the T-shirts made as something of a silly homage to Maury Wills, whose attention to detail is as legendary as his speed.

The shirt is simple, really. Just a drawing of Wills' face with him pointing and saying, "You can do better."

It's what he always says, even when a player like Uribe puts down a good round of sacrifice bunts in practice. "That was good, but you can do better."

While it's kind of funny that Uribe is the one who designed the shirts for the club, it's also somewhat fitting. Because if the Dodgers are going to do anything this year, it's players like Uribe, James Loney and Andre Ethier who have to do better than they did in 2011.

Uribe hit just .204 in 77 games last year after signing a three-year, $21 million deal. He was bad, hurt and ineffective. And then he had surgery to repair a sports hernia and shut it down early.

This spring he has looked healthy, but still not completely happy at the plate. He finished the spring hitting just an OK .255.

"I feel good, but I'm realistic," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the team's final spring training game on Wednesday, an 8-3 loss to the Angels.

"We're going to have to have a lot of guys kind of reach their watermark for us to be competitive. We saw what Matt [Kemp] was able to do last year and that wasn't good enough. So we have to have more than one or two guys have good years."

Still, there's a different feeling in the air as the Dodgers prepare to open the season this year. Mattingly has a year under his belt. Clayton Kershaw will take the mound Thursday against the San Diego Padres as the reigning Cy Young award winner, not just a future ace. Kemp could've and maybe should've been the MVP last season after bouncing back from an awful 2010. The ownership situation has been resolved at long last.

"I definitely feel different," Mattingly said. A lot more settled and assured having been through a year of games. I know our personnel a lot better.

"Thinking back on the first game of the year last year against the Giants, the Sunday night game starting off, I'm a lot more settled.

"I felt good last year going in and I think if we really would've been able to keep the guys on the field that needed to be on there, we'd have been more competitive early and you never know what happens from there."

Last season at this time, which seems like forever ago, the Dodgers were getting ready to open the season with several key players on the disabled list and lingering questions up and down their roster.

This year the Dodgers made it through spring training relatively unscathed, although there was a little scare in the third inning Wednesday when Ethier got hit by a pitch on his right elbow and Juan Rivera got hit in the face with a ball while diving back to first base.

Both were said to be annoyed after the game, but doing just fine.

"I think we got our work done and we're coming out of it fairly healthy," Mattingly said. "Which is what you're really supposed to do in spring training."

That, and "You can do better."