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DODGERS SPRING REPORT

James Loney wants to give his power numbers a boost

Manager Don Mattingly says he is fine with Loney hitting 10 to 15 homers and driving in 90 runs, but the first baseman is working on swinging for the fences.

February 27, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers first baseman James Loney takes a swing during Saturday's game against the Giants.
Dodgers first baseman James Loney takes a swing during Saturday's… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

Reporting from Phoenix — Every spring, James Loney is asked the same question: Will this be the year he hits for power?

Every spring, he says he thinks so. Then he doesn't.

Loney hit 15 home runs in 96 games in 2007, but in the three seasons since, he has hit 13, 13 and 10.

Considering Loney is 26 and five seasons into his major league career, that might be who he is — a player who hits 10 to 15 home runs a year but manages to drive in 90 runs.

Manager Don Mattingly said he is fine with that.

"I know everybody talks about James' power, but he has been right around 90 RBIs every year," Mattingly said. "We're not going to tell him to try to hit more home runs. If he can keep doing what he was doing at the break last year, we'll be happy with that."

At the All-Star break, Loney had 63 runs batted in. Despite a severe dip in form in the second half, he finished with 88. He had 90 in each of the two previous seasons.

But Loney said he wants more than that. He said he wants to hit home runs.

"Obviously, a home run is one of those things that's a momentum swing," Loney said. "It can help the team."

To work on making that happen, Loney made two trips in the off-season to the Dodgers' spring training complex and refined his swing with hitting coach Jeff Pentland.

The main focus: staying balanced and trying not to overswing.

"The more I stay on balance, the more I do the right things consistently, the more of a chance there is for that to happen," Loney said.

The ever-positive Mattingly said he thinks that could happen.

"I think this guy has it in him, I really do," Mattingly said. "I know some people keep telling me we're messing with him, but his hand-eye coordination is very good. He has the talent.

Ely tries to bounce back

John Ely was the kid who came out of nowhere to keep the Dodgers in contention last year, then suddenly turned into something resembling a batting-practice pitcher.

He returned Sunday in the Dodgers' 5-0 victory over the Angels at Camelback Stadium looking like the pitcher he was early last season, as he struck out three and gave up one hit over two scoreless innings.

Ely conceded that his command wasn't as sharp late last season.

"I wore down a little bit," he said. "So I basically came in mentally and physically more prepared than last year."

With five veterans in the rotation and swingman Vicente Padilla due to return in early May, Ely said he understands his chances of making the club as a starter are slim.

"But I want to make it as hard a decision as possible for them to send me anywhere," he said.

Ely said he wouldn't mind pitching out of the bullpen if it means he can be in the majors.

"I'll go stand in center field on my head if they want," he said.

Game to honor shooting victim

The Dodgers will face the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 25 to raise money for the memorial fund named for Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who was killed in a shooting rampage in Tucson last month. Green's father, John, is a scout for the Dodgers.

The split-squad game will be played in Tucson at the Diamondbacks' old spring training home.

Short hops

Early in the spring, Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp will play for two consecutive days, then take one off. Veteran infielders Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe and Casey Blake will play every other day. … Based on the results of online fan voting, the Dodgers will wear blue satin uniforms from the 1940s for their six midweek afternoon home games.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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