Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Marcus Thames

Around and around they go, until the left-field start lands back on Jay Gibbons

Dodgers2_300 And Monday’s starting left fielder is -- Jay Gibbons, who after all, was supposed to be the main guy out there back when the Dodgers were in their off-season war room. Those must have been some exciting times.

"We’ll see what he looks like," said Manager Don Mattingly.

Assuming, of course, he can see.

The original master plan was for Gibbons to start against right-handers, and for Marcus Thames to start against lefties.

Trouble was, an off-season eye procedure that was supposed to help Gibbons with his vision made it worse, and he spent the bulk of two months trying to figure out which contact lenses would work and fit.

That messed up Gibbons’ spring and he started his season on the disabled list. Meanwhile, Thames went on the DL and Tony Gwynn Jr. saw some playing time.

Hurting even more in left than they anticipated -- and they should have anticipated plenty -- they got desperate and called up highly regarded prospect Jerry Sands a year earlier than they wanted.

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Black holes and the theory of the Dodgers' relative offense

Kemp_300 Imagine you are Don Mattingly and look down at your bench. Easy now, you are only pretending.

They are what they are, which isn’t his fault. He doesn’t sign or groom players. He does, however, pick his poison and figures out who to start.

Here’s a free tip: Try not to pick out eight starters with only two guys capable of hitting the ball over the fence.

Which is what he did Sunday, putting his main horses, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who have cooled, in the third and fourth spots in the batting order, and then mostly a lot of flotsam around them.

At least Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles are doing their job at the top of the order and getting on base, which pretty much ended the team’s offensive highlights in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks.

Elsewhere, it was cover-the-eyes material.

Ethier and Kemp combined to finish 0 for 7, and then behind them came James Loney, Dioner Navarro, Juan Castro and Tony Gwynn Jr. Honest, they were trying to win.

The four of them have two home runs combined. Which is just about what you would expect.

Loney is hitting .230, Navarro .176, Castro was hitless in his season debut and Gwynn is hitting .224.

Gwynn got the start in left field, which is the biggest black hole in a lineup littered with them.

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James Loney's ongoing quest for an extra-base hit

Loney_275 James Loney is hitting his way out of his prolonged slump -- or is he?

Well, he’s getting a few hits, and that is progress. As The Times’ Dylan Hernandez noted, he’s 13 for 34 (.342) over his last 11 games. His batting average has risen from .170 to .226 during the "streak."

But it’s about as modest a streak as can be imagined. All 13 hits have been singles, which is not exactly a new theme for Loney. In his 128 at-bats on the season, he has exactly two extra-base hits.

Two. As in one plus one. Comes just before three. Right after embarrassing.

Loney has one double and one home run on the entire season. His last extra-base hit was on April 6 when he hit a solo homer. The 13 hits in his current streak produced one RBI.

His numbers on the season are stunningly feeble (.227 batting average, .263 on-base percentage and a .258 slugging percentage).

Which unfortunately is something of an ongoing trend. He hit .211 after the All-Star break last season. His slugging percentage the final two months of 2010 was a paltry .335.

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Gibbons activated, Thames to the disabled list

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons (31) during batting practice prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch on March 10, 2011. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel / US Presswire Apparently Jay Gibbons can see clearly now. Alas, Marcus Thames can’t see to run clearly.

So before to Tuesday’s game, the Dodgers announced they were activating Gibbons off the 15-day disabled list and placing Thames on it.

Gibbons has struggled with vision issues throughout the spring since undergoing a follow-up procedure to previous Lasik surgery in the offseason. He’s been to at least a half-dozen specialists trying to configure the proper contacts.

In 14 games at triple-A Albuquerque, the left-handed hitting Gibbons was hitting .288 with one home run  and 10 RBI in 52 at-bats.

Thames, who bats right-handed, started Monday night in left but ran somewhat gingerly and has mostly pinch hit the last two weeks because of a strained right quad. He was hitting .176 in 34 at-bats, with a pair of homers and four RBI.

The DL move probably means a temporary end to Don Mattingly sitting James Loney at first base and playing the right-handed Sands, who will now become the primary left-fielder against left-handed pitchers.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons (31) during batting practice prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch on March 10, 2011. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel / US Presswire

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

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

Dodgers to sign autographs to raise funds for tornado relief effort Sunday and Tuesday

Dodgers logo Several Dodgers players and coaches will sign autographs Sunday and Tuesday in an effort to raise funds for those in the southern United States who were hit by the recent wave of tornadoes.

Sunday the autographs will be offered as part of the Viva Los Dodgers Day celebration in Lot 6 beyond center field.

The Dodgers are encouraging a donation of $5. Those expected to sign include Manager Don Mattingly, and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt as well as Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Guerrier, Lance Cormier, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Rod Barajas.

Tuesday autographs will be signed in what the Dodgers call autograph alley, the area leading directly to Lot G behind center field.

Cormier and his family live in Tuscaloosa, Ala., one of the hardest hit areas, and the Dodgers said he is spearheading the team's relief effort.

Also starting Saturday and continuing through the final three games of the homestand against the Cubs, fans can text "GIVE" to 80888 to make a donation to the relief efforts through the Salvation Army or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Could threat of Jerry Sands spark James Loney?

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Jerry Sands (47) follows through on a sacrifice fly in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium April 18, 2011. The Dodgers defeated the Braves 4-2. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire
And now for Jerry Sands next trick -- adding two productive bats to the lineup?

The Dodgers hope the rookie with only 299 at-bats above the Class A level gives them a run-producing bat in left field … and just maybe first base. At the same time.

This sleight of hand is accomplished by Sands delivering not only in left, but also his presence lighting something of a spark under struggling first baseman James Loney.

It seemed to work Monday night in Sands’ major-league debut. The 23-year-old doubled in his first at-bat and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly with his second.

And Loney, mired in an 0-for-12 drought that had dropped his average to .150, collected a pair of hits and drove in two runs.

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Jackie Robinson Day features panel discussion, Dodger Stadium ceremonies to honor No. 42

L0yaronc The Dodgers have scheduled a series of events Friday to honor the 64th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

They’ll start off the day with 10 current and former Dodgers holding a panel discussion on Robinson’s effect on baseball and society at Crenshaw High School. Former Robinson teammate Don Newcombe, now a special advisor to Frank McCourt, will moderate the panel.

Also scheduled to appear at the Crenshaw assembly are Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson and current Dodgers Matt Kemp, James Loney, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr., Xavier Paul, and minor leaguer and Crenshaw alum Trayvon Robinson. It is closed to the public.

The Dodgers have also donated tickets to the entire Crenshaw student body for their game June 13 against the Reds.

"The Dodgers and Jackie Robinson have been a team for so many years and they remain a team today,’’ Newcombe said in a statement. "I look forward to helping the next generation of Americans learn all about who Jackie was and how much he means to so many people.’’

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Dodgers can't hold the lead again, fall 4-3 to Giants

Dodgers1_600

Maybe formulas are best left to chemistry labs or babies or auto racing.

In baseball, it can get so tricky.

The Dodgers’ formula for success is supposed to be to somehow scrape together a few runs and then let their starting pitcher bring the game home.

Ah, but the best-laid formulas of mice and men …

For the second consecutive night, the Dodgers took the lead against the Giants. Tuesday it was Chad Billingsley who couldn’t hold the lead. Wednesday it was Ted Lilly’s turn.

The Dodgers rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, only for Lilly to give up a pair of solo home runs in the bottom half, the Giants holding on for the 4-3 victory.

It brought a frustrating conclusion to the Dodgers’ eight-game road trip, the loss dropping them to 3-5 on the trip.

The Giants were leading 2-0 with left-hander Jonathan Sanchez seemingly in control, when Rod Barajas tied it with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Barajas now has four RBIs on the season, all coming off his team-high three home runs.

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Dodgers can't find the right finish in 5-4 loss to Giants

Dodgers5 The Dodgers had Giants ace Tim Lincecum down 3-0 and couldn’t hold it. They got a seventh-inning, pinch-hit home run by Marcus Thames to tie it and couldn’t hold it.

The Dodgers figure to have more frustrating defeats than Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Giants before the season ends.

On a chilly, breezy night that looked more like it belonged at old Candlestick Park, there were plenty of opportunities missed by the Dodgers.

If neither Lincecum nor Chad Billingsley were at the peak of their game, neither did they pitch poorly.

Still, the Dodgers managed to put four hits together around the Giants’ nightly fielding error to score three times against Lincecum in the fourth. Good times against the Giants continue!

The Giants scored a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth to take a 4-3 lead, and then the Dodgers loaded the bases with one out against Lincecum in the sixth.

That brought a call to the San Francisco bullpen and Guillermo Mota, the ex-Dodger who promptly struck out Rod Barajas and got weak-hitting Aaron Miles to pop up.

Thames’ pinch-hit home run tied it, but right-hander Blake Hawksworth gave it right back in the bottom of the inning. Aaron Rowand hit Hawksworth’s first pitch for a triple off the center field wall and then scored the winning run on a Hawksworth wild pitch that got past Barajas.

The bearded one, Brian Wilson, came in for the ninth and showed how to really close a game, striking out the side.

-- By Steve Dilbeck

Photo: San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, right, tags out James Loney at home plate during the fourth inning of Tuesday's game. Credit: LiPo Ching / MCT

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