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Is recent platoon of James Loney at first a look at things to come?

May 3, 2011 |  6:25 am

Loney_300 When is a platoon not a platoon?

Apparently, when the manager says it’s not. Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. Or that, in reality, it just might be.

Monday, for the second time in four days, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly sat struggling first baseman James Loney against a left-handed pitcher. Then denied it was a platoon.

"James is going to hit, we just got to get him there,’’ Mattingly said. "I believe in James, I’ve always believed in his ability. That’s the main thing, keep staying with him. ... I know what he’s capable of.’’

His belief in Loney isn't based on the player’s last four months of baseball. Loney hit .309 with 63 RBI before the All-Star break last season. After the break, he hit .211 with 25 RBI.

This season, his struggles have only continued. He’s currently batting .204 with 12 RBI. And he’s hitting just .125 against left-handers.

I like that Mattingly has sat him and switched rookie Jerry Sands to first and started Marcus Thames in left. It’s a quicker, bolder move than we would have seen in recent years. Loney needs to pick it up, and he can’t claim the Dodgers haven’t been patient with him.

It’s always a tricky maneuver attempting to support Loney, the bane of stat freaks everywhere. Loney plays an infield corner position that typically provides power. And power ain’t Loney’s thing.

To lock down first base, he has to at least hit for average and drive in runs. This is his fifth season, and his offensive curve is not headed up.

Time, and Loney, will show if this is really a platoon. If he hits, it goes away. For now, though, it’s probably not a regular platoon. But if Loney doesn’t get it turned around fairly soon, it should be.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: James Loney. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire