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DODGERS REPORT

Loaiza is mindful of injury

September 23, 2007|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Esteban Loaiza admitted Saturday that he hasn't completely put behind him the memory of the knee surgery he underwent in June.

The struggling pitcher said he is afraid whenever he runs down the first base line or plants his right foot on the bag.

"I don't want to get hurt again," Loaiza said.

Loaiza said that his surgically repaired right knee no longer bothers him. But he said it isn't back to full strength, limiting the force with which he can push off the mound.

Loaiza said his fastball topped out at 88 mph in his loss to Arizona on Friday, when he gave up six runs and five hits in four innings. His fastball was mostly in the mid-80s.

"Mentally, I'm locked in," he said. "My body's not responding that well. I know if I had two or three more miles on my fastball, everything would be good."

Loaiza sat out most of the season because of a bulging disk in his neck and the knee surgery, and didn't pitch for Oakland until Aug. 22. The Dodgers claimed him off waivers later that month.

Loaiza's poor start Friday was his third in a row. His only quality start for the Dodgers was in his first outing, when he gave up three runs in seven innings in Chicago. Loaiza has a 1-3 record and 8.53 earned-run average with the Dodgers.

Loaiza is due to make one more start this season, probably Thursday against Colorado at Dodger Stadium. He said his goal is to pitch seven innings of a win.

"We're at the end of the season, but for me it's like the end of spring training," Loaiza said.

When the season ends, Loaiza said he plans to rest for two weeks, then start exercises to strengthen his right leg.

"I just have to stay healthy and go into spring training strong," Loaiza said.

Chin-lung Hu literally had trouble seeing the ball last season. Saturday, he was selected the Dodgers' minor league player of the year.

Right-hander James McDonald was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year.

Hu, the most valuable player of the Futures Game, was a September call-up to the big league club and hit his first major league home run Sept. 11. The 23-year-old Taiwanese shortstop hit .325 with 14 home runs in a combined 127 games at double-A Jacksonville and triple-A Las Vegas.

He hit only .256 at Jacksonville last year, something he blamed on blurry vision in his right eye.

"I couldn't see the ball," Hu said, adding that he often guessed where the ball was when swinging the bat.

He tried wearing contact lenses, but that didn't work. He said that because of his poor vision he took more pitches, which led to him walking 49 times.

Hu's vision recovered with rest and his walk total declined to 32 this season.

Rafael Furcal sat out his fifth game in a row because of lower-back pain. He remains listed day to day. Ramon Martinez underwent an MRI exam for a hyper-extended right elbow. Results were negative. Martinez was injured while playing shortstop in place of Furcal in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader at Colorado.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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