Veteran Mueller retires, takes Dodgers front office job

LOS ANGELES -- Former AL batting champion Bill Mueller, limited to 32 games with the Dodgers last season before undergoing what turned out to be career-ending knee surgery, retired Friday and will serve as a special assistant to Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti.

"In one way, it's really disappointing, because I love what he brings to the table as a player," Colletti said. "When he got hurt last year, it was probably as big an injury as we had for what it meant to the club."

Mueller, who signed a two-year, $9.5 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, hit .252 with three homers and 15 RBI while striking out just nine times in 127 plate appearances.

"He's a very smart guy," Colletti said. "He'll be involved with us in scouting, evaluating players, player development areas, amateur draft areas. He'll be a great sounding board for me."

Colletti also said on a conference call that the Dodgers were close to completing a deal to retain Nomar Garciaparra, the NL comeback player of the year last season.

"We're not there yet, but we're close," Colletti said.

Garciaparra, 33, a two-time AL batting champion and six-time All-Star, hit .303 with 20 homers and 93 RBI for the Dodgers last season -- his first with the team. Injuries limited him to a total of 82 games in the previous two years.

Mueller finishes his career with a .291 average, 85 home runs and 493 RBI in 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Dodgers.

The 35-year-old third baseman hit .326 and had career-high totals of 171 hits, 19 homers and 85 RBI with the Red Sox in 2003, when he won his batting championship. He was a member of Boston's 2004 World Series championship team.

Mueller said he realized as last season went on that he'd never be able to play again because of the damage to his right knee.

"It's something I'm definitely going to need work on in the future, whether it's done with one surgery or two separate surgeries," he said. "It's something I'm basically going to have to live with the rest of my life, without being able to run or jog, without high-impact activity.

"It's unfortunate, it's crazy. I'm just trying to deal with it now, living day-to-day life."

Mueller and Colletti have known each other for several years. Mueller began his career with the Giants, where Colletti served as assistant GM for nine years before being hired by the Dodgers last November.

"He's someone that I trust and know, and really most importantly, respect," Mueller said. "I think that's what created even more interest in staying in the game of baseball. Once I understood there was no chance I would ever be able to play again, I called Ned. When both of our interests were high, I thought this was a great move and a great decision."

Mueller will be paid the $4.5 million the Dodgers owe him for next season, and as Colletti said with a laugh, had signed a contract at a much lower level of pay for the 2008 season.

"He's going to be a very special person in the executive ranks," Colletti said.

Mueller said he has no regrets concerning his playing career.

"I'm happy with the next chapter," he said. "My [job] description is a work in progress. As of right now, I'm very interested in learning under Ned. I think it's a wonderful opportunity for myself to be able to listen and really get tutored on the aspects of the front office.

"To me, it's such a great fit. Who knows what my interests might be? Right now, I just want to embrace this. Ned's given me an opportunity for a balanced life."

Mueller said he will continue to live in Phoenix but still has his apartment in Los Angeles.

"I'll be making trips back and forth and to wherever [Colletti] might need me," Mueller said.