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When is it time for the Dodgers to get nervous about James Loney?

April 11, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers first baseman James Loney has started the season 0-for-14 with a pair of walks.
Dodgers first baseman James Loney has started the season 0-for-14 with… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

Well, maybe not five games into the season but still …

It’s not helping the James Loney cause that he’s started the season 0-for-14 with a pair of walks. Sixteen plate appearances is nothing over the course of a season, but there’s no denying that Loney’s start is going to be watched with more scrutiny than most.

He’s one of three designated linchpins, three question marks, to the success of the Dodgers’ 2012 season. Since nothing came in the way of offensive cavalry over the winter, the Dodgers have looked to three players coming off disappointing seasons to invigorate their offense — Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe and Loney.

All indications are Ethier is poised for a strong season, and if the jury is absolutely still out on Uribe, at least he’s managed enough seeing-eye singles to post a .267 batting average and turn the glare elsewhere.

And when you own a .000 batting average, and are coming off an unimpressive year, the glare is going to fall on you like a hammer on a railroad spike.

“My biggest concern with James right now is that he starts panicking and trying to do something different, because right now I feel like he’s swinging the bat all right,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “The way he looked in spring training is the same way he looks right now, the same way he looked at the end of last year.

“To me his at-bats have been OK. He’s hit some balls on the nose. He’s not crushing balls into the gap or anything, [but] he’s hit some balls square. At this point I’m OK with James.”

Key clause: at this point. Regardless of what’s said, it would not take long for concern to surface.

Loney had struggled for almost a year before turning things around in the second half last season (.320). The Dodgers still reportedly flirted with signing slugging first baseman Prince Fielder in the off-season, but when spring began, Loney remained the team’s starter for a sixth season.

No one really expects him to turn into a slugging first baseman at this point in his career, but if you’re going to play a corner infield spot and not hit with power, you’d best at least hit.

And when Loney is not hitting, his history is of someone constantly playing with his swing and falling into deeper trouble.

“That’s my biggest concern,” Mattingly said. “The next thing you know he has a toe-tap or his hands are lower, he’s wide open, he’s spread out. So that’s our job, to keep James on track, because he’s swinging the bat good. I think he feels all right. It doesn’t look like he’s panicking up there. His at-bats are not changing. I’m OK with James.”

OK, at this early point.


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