Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dodgers Patient During James Loney Slump

The Dodgers are demonstrating patience with mildly slumping first baseman James Loney, the $400,000-a-year sophomore now assigned to the tutelege of roving batting instructor Don Mattingly.

Hitless in his last six at-bats and one for his last 10, Loney has seen his batting average fall to .236 against lefties, a significant liability for a cleanup hitter. But manager Joe Torre appears content to let Loney play through it for now, entertaining no thoughts of calling up deep reserve first baseman John Lindsey from Triple A Las Vegas, even if just to give Loney an occasional breather.

Prospect Andy LaRoche, however, is another matter, as he has been moved across the Las Vegas diamond to learn first base skills with the idea of spelling Loney from time to time once he returns to Los Angeles.

While LaRoche has failed to reach the .300 plateau forseen for him before he went down with a thumb injury, Lindsey is batting more than .350 and slugging nearly .700 with eight homers and 14 doubles in 165 at-bats in the thin desert air. But at age 30, Lindsey's time has passed and is regarded as no more than an insurance policy in the event of an injury to Loney,

With Loney's overall batting average still clinging to the .270 range, he is being tolerated for now as Torre needs him in the No. 4 hole to break up righties Matt Kemp and Jeff Kent, who have difficulties of their own.

Loney meanwhile has found something of a kindred spirit in Mattingly, a left-handed hitter who also experienced his share of setbacks when coming up 25 years ago and who was not initially seen as having a great deal of power potential.