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Mattingly lightens Loney's load

The Sports Xchange
 
Mattingly lightens Loney's load · Roster Report · Notes, Quotes
 

Games likes Monday's aren't going to make manager Don Mattingly's decision any easier on whom to start at first base.

Mattingly doesn't want to give up on first baseman James Loney. He's denying there's a platoon at first base, even though the left-handed-hitting Loney hasn't started against the last two left-handed starting pitchers the Dodgers have faced.

"If we're going to be a club that contends, we can't count on Matt (Kemp) and Andre (Ethier) to hit .390 all year," Mattingly said. "We're going to have to get contributions all over the lineup. And James is one of those pieces that we really count on to do that."

Jerry Sands moved from left field to first base both times Loney sat out, and Sands delivered an important two-out, two-run double in the fifth inning of the Dodgers' 5-2 win over the Cubs on Monday.

When Sands is at first base, it allows Marcus Thames start in left field, and it allows Tony Gwynn Jr. to enter defensively late in the game. Gwynn saved a game Friday night with a spectacular diving catch for the final out.

Mattingly talked with Loney on Sunday about keeping the ball low when he goes the opposite way.

For motivation, Loney will be fined $1 whenever he flies out to left field. For each liner to left, Loney takes a buck out of the pot. (As manager, Mattingly is judge and jury on what's a flyball and what isn't.)

Of Loney's 22 hits this year, only five have gone to the opposite field. He's batting just .204 overall with two extra-base hits.

"James is going to get hits," Mattingly said. "We just have to get him there. I believe in James. I've always believed in him and his ability. I'm trying to get him through a stretch and get him going. I don't want to break his confidence down by not playing him. In the same breath, I want him to keep working and get himself going."

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