Is James Loney finally on the rebound?
But mention Loney’s name to team followers, and they almost sprint into different camps: 1) No way can the Dodgers continue with a first baseman who lacks power and hasn’t hit since last July; or 2) He’s a reliable RBI guy who can hit .290 and play an excellent first base.
The anti-Loney group has gained steam since he went into the tank last August, then hit .208 in April.
But the shrinking pro-Loney contingent has gained hope by his recent play, and if it still won’t be confused with Ryan Howard, it’s certainly vast improvement.
After hitting .208 in April with a .241 on-base percentage and .238 slugging percentage, Loney has come back in May with .278/.345/.380.
Friday night he hit only his second home run of the season -- and first in 45 games -- and has now hit safely in 11 of 13 games.
Loney admits his slow start had troubled him.
"It’s not fun and it bothers you, but, you know, they schedule 162 games for you to play," he said. "You struggle for the first month, hopefully I got that out of the way."
Six of those last 11 hits have gone for extra bases. He may never be a home-run hitter, but the Dodgers need him to drive the ball. Even when he initially started his resurgence, he was mostly hitting singles.
"I’ve never heard of a bad hit," Loney said. "But obviously you want to hit he ball harder more often."
Loney is hopeful he’s turned the corner on his 2011 season. The Time's T.J. Simers is one of those who have suggested if Loney was unable to turn things around, he could go non-tendered in the offseason.
"I feel confident in what I’m doing," he said. "I still have to go out and battle, hit tough pitching and see where it goes.
"But it feels really good. It’s been a process. Sometimes you want it to happen sooner, to get back to how you hit the ball, and sometimes it just happens a little later than you want."
Sometimes it happens, and camps remain divided.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers first baseman James Loney and Marlins pitcher Javier Vazquez watch Loney's solo home run in the second inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press