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Juan Rivera closing in on deal with the Dodgers

November 1, 2011 |  5:54 pm

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Juan Rivera and the Dodgers are closing in on a one-year contract that would include a team option for 2013, according to baseball sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been finalized. The deal could be completed later this week.

Rivera, 33, was General Manager Ned Colletti’s bargain find of last season.

Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in mid-July, Rivera hit .274 with five home runs and 46 runs batted in for the Dodgers over 62 games. With Rivera starting in left field and protecting Matt Kemp in the lineup, the Dodgers went 45-28 over their last 73 games.

The Dodgers paid Rivera less than $200,000 for his services, as the Blue Jays agreed to cover what remained of his $5.25-million salary. Rivera didn’t play well in Toronto, hitting .243 with six home runs and 27 RBIs for the Blue Jays, who designated him for assignment.

By re-signing Rivera, the Dodgers would be closing the door on the idea of moving first baseman James Loney to left field. Loney has offered to switch positions in the unlikely case the Dodgers land free agent Prince Fielder this winter.

Loney is in the final year of salary arbitration and in line for a raise from the $4.875 million he earned this year. The Dodgers have until Dec. 12 to decide whether to tender him a contract.

That means that if the Dodgers pursue Fielder in earnest, they probably would want to know by that day if he will sign with them. If they part ways with Loney and fail to land Fielder, they would be left without an established first baseman.

Rivera made clear in September that he wanted to re-sign with the Dodgers.

“Maybe it’s the climate of Southern California,” the former Angel said. “I feel comfortable here.”

Rivera credited his turnaround with the Dodgers on the work he started doing with a physical trainer when the Blue Jays designated him for assignment in early July. Rivera was often the first Dodger on the field on game days, performing a series of flexibility and agility drills.

“When you’re over 30, you have to change your routine,” he said.

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-- Dylan Hernandez

Photo: Dodgers left fielder Juan Rivera. Credit: Luis Alvarez / Associated Press

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