Third baseman led majors with 48 homers

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta plans to do everything he can to bring star third baseman Adrian Beltre back next season.

Beltre earned $5 million this year and had a breakout season, and he figures to be one of the most attractive free agents on the market this offseason.

"I'd like to do everything I possibly can to make sure he's back in a Dodger uniform," DePodesta said Sunday night after Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoffs with a 6-2 loss to St. Louis in Game 4 of their best-of-five division series.

"He was certainly our team MVP this year. He carried us offensively and played unbelievable defense, too. He's been huge, no question about it," he said.

The 25-year-old Beltre batted .334 this season with a major league-leading 48 home runs and 121 RBI and 104 runs. He committed only 10 errors and struck out 87 times.

He said he's not thinking about his future just yet -- he needed some time to let the end of the season sink in.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I'm willing to wait to find out. I'm just going to sit back and see what goes on. It's been fun to be here."

Manager Jim Tracy has said he plans to meet with Beltre before his cleanup hitter returns to the Dominican Republic for the winter to let him know how much he's meant to this club.

Beltre began the season batting seventh but moved his way up in order as his offensive numbers improved.

Beltre has shown consistency this season. Tracy believes he's had it in him all along, despite hitting .240 last season with 23 homers and 80 RBI. Tracy sees many 100-RBI seasons in Beltre's future.

His teammates are confident he'll be wearing Dodger blue again in 2005.

"He'll be here. He'll be here. He'll be here," closer Eric Gagne said. "They want to win. They know Adrian Beltre is the reason we win. He loves the city and the city loves him."