Wallach Dodgers' Triple-A skipper

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Just as Tim Wallach was being introduced Wednesday as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top farm team, his old boss jumped in.

"I'd like to ask a question. What does that stand for? What is an Isotope?" former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda asked.

The short answer? It's the name of the Triple-A team that Wallach will oversee while grooming players for the parent Dodgers. The former third baseman spent 3½ years in Los Angeles during his 16-year career in the majors.

"It's a thrill for me to come back to the Dodgers and manage at this level," the 51-year-old Wallach said. "My goal with this job is to develop winning baseball players, not just develop baseball players."

Lasorda was on hand because Albuquerque's management team is promoting renewed ties between the city and the Dodgers, who placed their Triple-A team in town from 1972-2000 and had a Double-A club here from 1963-71.

Last fall, the Dodgers signed a two-year player development contract after the Florida Marlins ended their six-year partnership in Albuquerque.

To honor the history, Isotopes president Ken Young showed off the team's new uniforms for Sunday home games.

Although Albuquerque's usual colors are black, red and white, connections to the Dodgers are apparent in the Sunday blue hats and blue shirts with "Isotopes" spelled in white cursive script.

"That's something special," Dodgers assistant general manager DeJon Watson said. "We're tying in the Dodgers with the Isotopes."

And while it was Wallach's day, Lasorda was in the spotlight.

He spoke about how the city has changed since his days as manager of the Albuquerque Dukes in the 1970s, marveled at the modern stadium and good-naturedly complained that he couldn't find his picture anywhere in the building.

"I'm never letting them down for that one," said Lasorda, who now works as special adviser to Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt. "Next time I come, they'd better have one the size of that wall."

As Wallach slipped on his Isotopes jersey and posed for cameras, Lasorda demanded an explanation about the Isotopes' name. Young smiled and laughed, asking, "You've got to do that in front of a big group?"

"I don't know," Lasorda replied. "What is it?"

Young explained that the nickname is derived from an episode of the popular TV series "The Simpsons," where Homer Simpson tried to prevent the fictional Springfield Isotopes from relocating to Albuquerque.

"But what is it?" Lasorda asked. "What is an isotope?"

"It is an aberrant element, OK, where there aren't the same number of protons and neutrons," Young explained.

"Oh, I understand that. I've got all that down now," Lasorda said, drawing a room full of laughter.

Wallach, who had 260 home runs and 2,085 hits in the majors, replaces Lorenzo Bundy, who became Albuquerque's manager in October but subsequently was hired as first base coach by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Wallach praised the lavish facilities at Isotopes Stadium. Lasorda cited the improved workout and training areas as one of the reasons the Dodgers moved their Triple-A players from Las Vegas.

Wallach stressed his belief that it's possible to win at all levels of the organization while developing players.

"If I can't send guys up to the big leagues who are going to help Joe Torre win pennants, then I'm not doing my job," he said.

Lasorda promised to do whatever he can to help his former player.

"If Timmy runs into trouble and needs a left-hander, I'm ready," he said.