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Kent decides against retirement, to return to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Kent will return to play a fourth season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jeff Klein, Kent's agent, said in an e-mail that his client had
advised Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti that he intends to
play next year. Kent, who turns 40 in March, is
baseball's career leader in home runs by a second baseman.

"He is actively pursuing his customary and rigorous offseason
conditioning and weightlifting program, and is very focused on
helping his team win the World Series this year," Klein wrote.
"He asked me to wish all of you and your families a happy holiday
season."

Kent has 365 career homers and 537 doubles, making him one of 16
major leaguers to reach 350 homers and 500 doubles. He has a
lifetime batting average of .290.

"I never thought there was any doubt he was coming back,"
Colletti said Wednesday at a Dodger Stadium news conference where
new Los Angeles center fielder Andruw Jones was introduced.

Jones, who agreed to terms last week, finalized his $36.2
million, two-year contract earlier in the day.

Kent, a five-time All-Star, hit .302 with a team-leading 20
homers and 79 RBIs this season despite being slowed by a strained
hamstring in the second half.

"We talked to his agent five or six times. I talked to Jeff
once for about 30 minutes," Colletti said. "We had a nice
conversation. I wasn't chasing, I wasn't worried."

Kent said at season's end, following the Dodgers' disappointing
finish, that he was uncertain about next year, but new manager Joe
Torre said last month at his introductory news conference that Kent
seemed excited about the 2008 season.

"I don't know Jeff Kent. I felt pretty upbeat and positive he
was coming back next year," Torre said. "Hopefully, that's the
case."

Kent guaranteed his $9 million option for next season by making
his 550th plate appearance in late September, but expressed his
frustrations regarding the team's collapse, saying some of the
Dodgers' younger players lacked professionalism and their
inexperience had hurt the team.

The Dodgers lost 11 of their last 14 games and finished 82-80,
fourth in the NL West.