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Dodgers fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland; offensive woes cured!

July 20, 2011 | 11:40 am

Right, that was the problem. The hitting coach. No possibility it was just lousy players.

No matter. In an oddly timed move, the Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland on Wednesday morning, just a couple hours before their afternoon game in San Francisco.

They named Dave Hansen as interim hitting coach. Previously Hansen served as Pentland’s assistant, with the title of hitting instructor. Which was the same title Pentland had the previous three seasons, serving as Don Mattingly’s aide.

Now there’s little doubt the Dodgers are a miserable hitting team. In Major League Baseball they rank 27th in runs, 26th in slugging percentage (.361), 22nd in home runs and 17th in batting average (.250).

And certainly the argument could be made that James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Rod Barajas, et al, have failed to either develop, rebound from injury or simply perform up to expectations.

Still, the horses he’s been given to run with are on the feeble side. They have been unable to identify a No. 5 hitter to protect Matt Kemp all season. Tuesday they batted Aaron Miles fifth, who has hit for average and little else this season.

General manager Ned Colletti essentially told reporters in San Francisco the move was made to send a message to the team.

If the message was supposed to be not to slack up amidst troubling times, it seemed more like: We can always find a scapegoat.

"You feel for all things leading up to this,’’ Andre Ethier said.

Pentland, 64, was in his 15th season as a major league batting coach, so it’s not like he got hitting stupid overnight.

The greatest hitting coach alive couldn’t have turned Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames, Dioner Navarro, Juan Castro, Russell Mitchell and the like into feared hitters.

Feels too much like finger-pointing time.

"He was a good hitting coach,'' Kemp said. "I just feel bad that he lost his job on our behalf.''

Mattingly broke the news to the team in a Wednesday morning meeting.

"It was bad. It was down,'' Tony Gwynn Jr. said.

Hansen can't feel too great about his own job security now.

"I don't think about that,'' Hansen said. "I don't give up on these guys. I never give up on them.''

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Batting coach Jeff Pentland (41) high fives Trent Oeltjen. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press