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Torre faces Yankees for 1st time since leaving NY

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Torre and the New York Yankees are in the same city again — on opposite sides of the field.

Torre and his Los Angeles Dodgers opened a three-game interleague series against the Yankees on Friday night, the first time that Torre is facing them since leaving New York in 2007.

He guided the Bronx Bombers to four World Series titles as manager, and his record of 1,173 wins and 767 losses made him the second-winningest skipper in team history.

The storied franchises have met 11 times in the World Series — the most of any two teams — with the Yankees winning eight times. But the current series is only the second they've played in the regular season. In 2004, the Dodgers won two of three when the Yankees visited.

"It should be interesting," said Joe Girardi, who succeeded Torre after he left with mixed feelings. "It's life. People move on, but it's still kind of weird."

The pre-game drama focused on whether Torre and Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez would greet each other. They didn't.

Rodriguez was portrayed unfavorably in Torre's 2009 book "The Yankee Years." When A-Rod was asked about his former manager earlier in the week, he reportedly replied, "Next question."

Asked if he was disappointed that A-Rod refused to talk about him, Torre said before batting practice, "Just because he doesn't want to talk to me doesn't mean, I don't think it means he's not going to say hello or shake my hand. I don't think there's anything that should keep us from doing that."

Certainly it wasn't for lack of proximity.

Torre practically held a receiving line on the edge of the batting cage closest to the Yankees' dugout while the Dodgers hit before the game.

About 15 feet away, A-Rod stretched with his back to Torre. He then headed out to shallow center field without so much as a glance at his former manager.

"I'm certainly going to go over and shake his hand," Torre said before batting practice.

It never happened.

Torre got a warm reception from just about everyone else wearing a navy jersey and gray pants.

Yankees captain Derek Jeter stretched at the same time he talked to Torre, who then hugged Girardi. Torre hugged catcher Jorge Posada and kissed him on the cheek after chatting up reliever Mariano Rivera and longtime Yankees fan Billy Crystal.

"The thing you realize being around him so much is how he treats people. He treats everyone fairly, he doesn't treat them all the same, but he treats them fairly," Jeter said. "He takes the time to get to know people."

Earlier in the week, Torre said he called Jeter to catch up on what Jeter said were non-baseball topics, and Torre picked up the Yankees trainers and clubhouse manager for breakfast on Thursday.

"I'm not going to pretend that it's not going to be emotional. I got over that in '96 when I was blubbering like a baby every time I opened my mouth, especially during the postseason," Torre said. "There is baseball to play and that certainly has to be center stage over my personal relationship with these guys."

Torre acknowledged that facing the Yankees in laid-back LA was "much easier because one thing, we have played better at home than on the road."

The Yankees came into Dodger Stadium leading the AL East, while the Dodgers have lost nine of 12 games and fallen from first to third in the NL West.

The Dodgers opened the gates earlier than usual to allow fans in for batting practice. Yankees jerseys were visible in all sections of the ballpark.

Jeter wasn't going to allow his longtime friendship with Torre to affect why he came to LA.

"I don't care if it's my parents in the other dugout, you try to beat him," he said. "I've always had the utmost respect for him, that'll always continue, but he's playing against us."

Jeter said it was "most awkward" seeing Don Mattingly in a Dodgers uniform than Torre. Mattingly is the LA hitting coach and considered by many to be the heir apparent to succeed Torre when he retires.

Mattingly played his entire 14-year career in the Bronx and was a Yankees hitting coach from 2004-06 and was their bench coach in 2007 — all under Torre.

Torre and Mattingly aren't the only Dodgers with ties to New York.

First base coach Mariano Duncan won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996, and third base coach Larry Bowa held the same job with them from 2006-07 before moving West with Torre.

Girardi took a giant step out of Torre's shadow last year when he guided the Yankees to their 27th world championship in his second season. He won three World Series with them as a catcher.

He began his coaching career in 2005, serving as Torre's bench coach and catching instructor with the Yankees. During games, Girardi would pepper Torre with questions and suggest moves.

"There's a calmness about Joe that I think is really important when you manage here," Girardi said. "The greatest advice he ever gave me was just be yourself."

For his part, Torre relied on Girardi to tell him what was going on among the players in the clubhouse. After he left, Jeter took on that job.

"Joey is a very intelligent kid," Torre said. "I was glad that he played in New York so it wouldn't be so foreign to him when he took the club over. He's done a great job. It's not always easy to go back and manage a lot of the players you played with."