Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Loney still taking a steady approach
By Tony Jackson
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Even after a triple and a double in four at-bats during Wednesday's Cactus League game, a 4-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants before 10,084 at Scottsdale Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney was hitting a pedestrian .256 for the spring. Nevertheless, he didn't seem to feel that warranted any adjustments at the plate, as he has pretty much stuck with the same stance and the same mechanics despite the results.
And Dodgers manager Don Mattingly couldn't be happier about that.
"James has been on and off," Mattingly said. "But the one thing I have liked about James is how he has been fairly close to looking the same all the time. He hasn't been changing. He is adjusting some timing stuff, which is natural for spring training, but other than that, he has been pretty much the same."
The old Loney was constantly tinkering, sometimes using three or four different batting stances not only within a week or a month but within a game, driving Mattingly and whoever happened to be the Dodgers hitting coach at the time absolutely nuts. But during the second half of last year, Loney seemed to settle on one approach and stick with it, and the result was a .320 average and .380 on-base percentage after the All-Star break.
Looking back, Loney is at something of a loss to explain why he used to be such a tinkerer.
"I guess it's that classic job-interview answer, that maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist," he said. "You know you can't be perfect all the time, but sometimes you feel like you have done everything right and you still don't get the result you want."
The Dodgers got their first look at Jerry Hairston in the outfield, the utility man playing the entire game in left. Hairston's ability to play there likely will lead the Dodgers to carry only four other outfielders on their opening-day roster, especially in the wake of their having sent Jerry Sands to minor league camp on Tuesday.
Mattingly liked what he saw, and Hairston said he still feels totally natural in the outfield, where he has played 355 games in his career.
Mostly, though, Hairston, who is African-American, talked about the social significance of the impending purchase of the Dodgers by an ownership group fronted by Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who becomes the first African-American owner of a franchise in the history of Major League Baseball. The fact that Johnson is buying the team for which Jackie Robinson broke the game's color barrier in 1947 wasn't lost on Hairston.
"People saw Jackie Robinson on TV doing amazing things," Hairston said. "That raised up the black community so they said, `You know what, we can do amazing things.' And then Martin Luther King came through, and Rosa Parks came through, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson came through, because Jackie had been there first.
"I think Jackie Robinson would be extremely proud today."
One day after fouling a ball off his groin while trying to bunt during batting practice -- a development that left him lying on the ground in excruciating pain -- Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe jumped right back into the box and worked on his bunting again on Wednesday.
"He did a little bunting today with Maury (Wills)," Mattingly said. "You have to get back on the horse, although getting on the horse wouldn't have been a good thing today."
The Dodgers (12-10-4) play the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on Thursday, with the Dodgers the designated home team. Aaron Harang will start.