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Even when James Loney appears to be back on track, the opinions manage to vary

June 24, 2011 |  7:17 am

James Loney

Got an opinion?

Of course, you do. Everybody has a James Loney opinion. Too this, not enough that, just fine at this.

Has to go, should be a fixture, needs to be shown the Russell Martin door.

Isn’t he a blast?

And then there’s this: Loney is currently hitting like the player the Dodgers thought they had.

As opposed to the player who batted .211 in the second half last season, only to come roaring back this April and hit .210.

The Loney concern level continued to rise. Regular panic in the streets. By the middle of May, The Times’ T.J. Simers said he was in danger of not being offered arbitration next year, to which Loney replied: "If I stay on the same pace, why would they bring me back?"

Enlightening answers were not forthcoming. Only now, Loney is hitting well, and actually has been for a while.

On May 2, through the Dodgers’ first 30 games, he was hitting .202 with 17 strikeouts and five walks. In his 45 games since, he’s batted .309 with 12 strikeouts and 14 walks.

"I’m finding the holes right now, just trying to hit the ball hard on a consistent basis," Loney said.

Yeah, he can be a tad weak on insightful quotes. But he continues to find his groove at the plate -- he was already playing superior defense -- and is currently the most productive he’s been in almost a year.

Loney has hit in 11 of his last 12 games (.426) with three doubles, a homer and eight runs batted in since June 9.

Loney said he’s done with constantly tinkering with his swing and has found a comfortable place.

"I’m keeping what I’m doing," he said. "I’m just going to keep working on that, day in and day out, keeping that consistent. And then go from there."

As far as many are concerned, he may be playing just well enough to offer some value at the trading deadline. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, while acknowledging Loney’s turnaround, used it to inspire a look at possible trade destinations (quick answer: no team actually jumps out).

Loney is in his fourth full season, and it probably should be noted, just turned 27 last month. After his disappointing 2010, it’s uncertain how much real trade value he’d offer.

And if he keeps just in the same neighborhood of his current path, the Dodgers will likely keep him. Power or no, they have more pressing issues than smooth-fielding, .300-hitting first baseman.

Of course, that’s just another Loney opinion.


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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: James Loney poses for a photo before a game against the Houston Astros on June 18. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S. Presswire