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Dodgers: Sunday morning news and notes

March 6, 2011 | 10:12 am

The Dodgers play the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon in Mesa, Ariz. The Dodgers' regulars got to skip the bus trip, as evidenced by a lineup with Dioner Navarro batting cleanup.

James Loney was all smiles in the Dodgers clubhouse, one day after the team sent him for an MRI examination of his swollen left knee.

"I'm fine," he said.

The knee was wrapped, but the diagnosis was inflammation rather than any structural damage. Manager Don Mattingly said he hoped Loney would return to the lineup on Wednesday.

"It's the same knee he had surgery on 10 years ago. There's been no problem since," Mattingly said. "He may have taken a wrong step. Who knows?"

-- Loney batted .222 with a .575 OPS against left-handers last season, .286 with a .785 OPS against right-handers. When the Dodgers rest Loney against a tough left-hander, Mattingly said his options at first base would include Casey Blake (with Juan Uribe at third base and Jamey Carroll at second base) and Jay Gibbons.

-- Mattingly said he was not compelled to carry a second left-hander in the bullpen beyond Hong-Chih Kuo.

"I want the best arms," Mattingly said. "For years, we'd go into Anaheim and [Mike] Scioscia wouldn't have a lefty down there."

Mattingly added he did not want a so-called situational left-hander, the kind of pitcher who faces one batter (Ryan Howard, say) and then leaves the game.

"That can kind of blow out your staff," Mattingly said.

-- Russell Mitchell could be an intriguing depth player for the Dodgers, although he figures to start the season at triple-A Albuquerque. Mitchell is starting at first base on Sunday, and he can play first base, third base and, as needed, catcher.

"It's always nice to have that emergency guy if you want to pinch hit or pinch run for your catcher," Mattingly said.

-- The price of unleaded gas down the street from the Cubs' ballpark: $3.33 per gallon. Just saying.

-- Bill Shaikin in Mesa, Ariz.