LOS ANGELES (AP) – Grady Little resigned as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, paving the way for Joe Torre to take the job.

Little said it was a move he considered for some time, and he told general manager Ned Colletti of his decision Tuesday. First, Little called it “a mutual resignation.” Later, he said it was his choice to leave with a year remaining on his contract.

“I’ve got my own personal reasons,” Little said on a conference call.

When asked if reports that the Dodgers were speaking with Torre influenced his decision, Little replied firmly: “No.”

Torre and his former bench coach with the New York Yankees, Don Mattingly, have discussed the possibility of joining the Dodgers together, according to a person with knowledge of those talks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the manager’s job was still open in Los Angeles.

“We haven’t hired anybody,” Colletti said.

“We’re talking to some people, that’s all I’m going to tell you. We’ll talk about where we go from here at a later date.”

The 67-year-old Torre managed the Yankees to four World Series championships and 12 playoff appearances in as many seasons before turning down a one-year, $5 million offer for next season with an additional $3 million in incentives on Oct. 18.

Torre, who completed a three-year, $19.2 million contract this year, ranks eighth on baseball’s career list with 2,067 victories and has won a record 76 postseason games.

Colletti said he had an idea the 57-year-old Little was leaning toward resigning, so he recently discussed the job with potential replacements. The GM said he didn’t want to get caught empty-handed.

One of those candidates, Colletti acknowledged, was Joe Girardi, hired by the Yankees as Torre’s successor earlier Tuesday.

“I wanted Grady Little back. I encouraged him a handful of times to think it through,” Colletti said.

Team owner Frank McCourt said on the season’s final day that Little would return next year, but recently several news outlets reported the Dodgers were speaking with Torre about their managerial job.

Torre’s agent, Maury Gostfrand, declined comment. Speaking on CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman,” on Monday night, Torre said: “There’s nothing to any of it so far.”

The Dodgers entered this season as the clear-cut favorite to win the NL West and had the league’s best record in mid-July. But they dropped 11 of their last 14 games to fade out of contention, finishing at 82-80.

Clubhouse unrest surfaced between veterans and young players during the season’s final two weeks, when the Dodgers lost seven straight games to the Colorado Rockies.

Little said that wasn’t why he stepped down.

“It’s nothing in particular,” he said. “It’s just a decision we’ve come to. This is all personal. There’s a lot of belief I’ve been dealt an injustice here. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My plans? To play with my grandkids.”

The Dodgers have won only one postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series.

Little managed the Boston Red Sox from 2002-03 before being fired despite winning more than 90 games each season.

The Red Sox led the Yankees 5-2 late in Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series before Little opted to leave in pitcher Pedro Martinez instead of going to the bullpen. The Yankees rallied to tie the game before winning in the 11th on a homer by Aaron Boone.

That led to Little’s firing.

Speaking before what turned out to be Little’s final game, McCourt said he was encouraged about the Dodgers’ direction under Colletti and Little.

“We should be playing next week,” McCourt said. “It’s sort of an odd place I’m at right now. I feel the fans’ disappointment. I share it. On the other hand, I feel something very positive here. The future is very, very bright.”

The Dodgers went 88-74 and made the playoffs as the NL wild card in Little’s first season as their manager before being swept by the New York Mets in the first round.

Mattingly’s son, Preston, is a minor leaguer in the Dodgers’ organization.

AP-ES-10-30-07 2006EDT

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