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Dodgers lose to Rockies, 5-3, but avoid using an untested arm

Chad Billingsley pitches 7 2/3 innings and spares Don Mattingly from having to put a willing James Loney on the mound on an emergency basis because of an overworked bullpen.

August 21, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez

Reporting from Denver — While most of his teammates were still in the clubhouse Sunday morning, James Loney started playing long toss in the outfield at Coors Field. Before long, he was throwing off one of the mounds in the visitors' bullpen.

This is what the Dodgers' season had come to.

They were so short on usable arms that Manager Don Mattingly warned Loney that he could be called upon to pitch in an emergency.

"Let's hope we don't see it today," Mattingly said.

Mattingly was spared his nightmare scenario by Chad Billingsley, who couldn't prevent the Dodgers from falling into last place but pitched 7 2/3 innings of the team's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Loney said he was uncertain whether he received an emotional lift from his mound session, but that appeared to be the case. He was four for four, drove in two runs and fell a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

"I think we have to get him to throw more sides before the game so we can get his bat to come around," said Mattingly, who later clarified that he was kidding.

Mattingly was forced to entertain the idea of using Loney as pitcher as a result of his team's 13-inning defeat Saturday night. Every Dodgers reliever pitched in that game.

Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda skipped his regularly scheduled bullpen session Sunday and volunteered to pitch an inning out of the bullpen. Mattingly said utilityman Eugenio Velez was also a candidate to pitch.

Loney was visibly excited by the potential assignment.

When the Dodgers selected him in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft, Loney was viewed by most teams as a pitcher. As a senior at Elkins High in Missouri City, Texas, he was 9-1 with a 1.80 earned-run average.

He still travels with a pitcher's glove.

"For days like today," Loney said.

The affable, if somewhat goofy, first baseman talked about the joys of pitching before the game and continued to do so after, becoming increasingly silly with each response.

"I want to be a two-way player," he said.

Asked whether he could be a situational left-hander, Loney replied, "I think I can do more. Maybe I'll start."

Loney used to jokingly ask former managers Grady Little and Joe Torre to let him pitch, but he was never taken seriously because of his value as a position player. Mattingly denied that he was open to the possibility because the Dodgers no longer view him as a part of their future.

"No, no," Mattingly said. "This is just emergency."

Not that Billingsley was about to let Loney anywhere near the mound.

Billingsley made two mistakes that cost him the game: a two-run home run by Carlos Gonzalez in the first inning and a two-run shot by Seth Smith in the seventh. But he was dominant in between, holding the Rockies hitless from the second inning through the sixth.

The Dodgers had to use only one reliever, Hong-Chih Kuo, who faced one batter and struck him out.

"He was great," Mattingly said of Billingsley.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt conveyed the same sentiments by visiting Billingsley at his locker and patting him on the shoulder.

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