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Searching for Mr. Loney

April 14, 2011 |  7:18 am

Lj59iwnc OK, so actually we know where he is, it's just hard to recognize him. At least, the Dodgers faithful hope it is.

Truth be told, he's looking awfully familiar. A little too much like the mysterious James Loney everyone watched the final two months of last season.

Loney is batting .159 on the new season (seven for 44). Now, it's easy to write that off as one of those early season things. They happen. The best hitter in the game, Albert Pujols, was hitting .150 only two days ago.

Trouble is, it's continuing a pattern. Add the first two weeks of the season to his numbers since July 30, and Loney is batting .207. And before that, he had been hitting .292.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly did not start Loney on Wednesday against the Giants in San Francisco, saying he thought Loney was "anxious" and that the Dodgers were working with Loney on something to do with his hands.

Hope somebody is working on something. Loney simply isn't driving the ball. Usually a smooth-looking hitter, he appears to be oddly uncomfortable at the plate. He has two extra-base hits (.256 slugging percentage).

Loney is so easy-going that he can be hard to read, but when you're essentially slumping for 2½ months, it has to wear on you.

Since Loney lacks power, particularly for a first baseman, his trouble collecting hits only becomes more magnified. A long season awaits, but he's making it a nervous beginning.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers' James Loney during the game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodgers Stadium April 4, 2011. Credit: Katie Falkenberg/For The Times