Loney's Slide Might Take Him Off Dodgers

The final days before the trading deadline often tell which direction an organization is headed. Players come and players go, and how a team feels about a player is evident based on how much their names are involved in trade rumors. About a year ago, when the Mariners were shopping pitcher Cliff Lee, the key player they wanted from the Dodgers was first baseman James Loney.

Instead, they ended up with Justin Smoak as the key player in a deal with the Rangers.

You couldn't blame the Dodgers for hanging onto Loney at the time. He had 63 RBI at the All-Star break on a team that, like this year, was struggling to score runs.

Andre Ethier had missed six weeks because of a broken pinky and wasn't back to his early-season form. Matt Kemp was in the middle of a disappointing season. Manny Ramirez was rarely healthy enough to play.

Loney, even if he wasn't hitting home runs, was one of the few consistent hitters in the lineup with a .309 average and 25 doubles.

All of which makes what's happened to Loney in about a year's worth of games a total mystery. His slash line after the 2010 All-Star break was .311/.285/.331 with 25 RBI.

Loney went 1-for-4 in Wednesday's game and the Dodgers were idle Thursday, so his slump is now 5-for-48 since July 6. All but one of those hits is a double. He's posting a .257/.303/.328 slash line. His 631 OPS is the lowest among qualifying first baseman in the majors.

During this season, manager Don Mattingly has given Loney days off against tough left-handers. On Tuesday, he didn't start him against a right-handed pitcher.

Mattingly downplayed the significance, saying that he had three players for two spots (left field and first base), and sometimes left-handed hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. would play against left-handers, and sometimes right-hander Juan Rivera would start against righties.

Then Mattingly was asked if it's potentially awkward to sit Loney against anybody, considering that Loney's been an everyday player since late in the 2007 season.

"I've talked to James about it," Mattingly said. "It's a bottom-line business, right? I'm not crushing down on him, but he has 30 RBI and we're a team struggling to score runs. I'm sure he's not thrilled about it."

Loney is making $4.875 million this season. He has one year remaining until he's a free agent. But barring a dramatic change in the final two months, he's a prime candidate to be non-tendered.

It's tough enough paying that much money to a first baseman who doesn't hit for power. But now that he's not even hitting for average, it becomes almost a no-brainer to non-tender Loney.

They did that a year ago with Russell Martin, although that decision was aided by an injury the Dodgers weren't sure would heal.

Exactly one-third of the season remains for the Dodgers. It could be the final one-third season of Loney's time with the Dodgers.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Adalberto Mondesi, the 16-year-old son of former Dodger 30-30 man rifle-arm Raul Mondesi, has signed with Kansas City for a $2 million bonus. Raul Mondesi's colorful career has led to him becoming mayor of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. He made his debut for the Dodgers at age 22 in 1993, won the National League Rookie of the Year award the next year and ended up with a .334 on-base percentage, .504 slugging percentage, 163 homers and 140 steals in 916 games for Los Angeles.

--RHP Kenley Jansen was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat shortly after getting the save Tuesday night, and he was released from the hospital the next afternoon. Medication didn't correct the problem, so Jansen underwent cardio conversion to shock the heart back into its normal rhythm. He is day-to-day.

--3B Casey Blake went 0-for-4 and struck out twice Thursday in his first rehab game for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Blake has been sidelined for three weeks because of a cervical strain in his neck.

--SS Dee Gordon continues to make his case for a promotion back to the majors, whether the Dodgers trade SS Rafael Furcal or not. Gordon went 3-for-5 on Wednesday to raise his batting average to .338 at Class AAA Albuquerque. He has six stolen bases in his last eight games, and is 30-for-34 overall.

--RF Andre Ethier told reporters after hitting a home run in Monday's game that he's going to start swinging for the fences. Since then, he's 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in two games. It's never clear how much Ethier is serious and how much he's trying to sent a message, so most observers took his declaration with a grain of salt. To illustrate the point, not a single reporter even followed up by asking the manager what he thought of his right fielder proclaiming he's swinging for the fences now.

--LHP Ted Lilly, who starts Friday, has lost both of his starts against the Diamondbacks this season, giving up eight runs in 12 2/3 innings. He'll take a streak of 33 starts without walking more than two batters in a game, which is the longest active streak in the majors.

--INF Jamey Carroll probably became an even bigger target for the Brewers with the injury to All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks. After a recent slump, Carroll seems to be out of it with five hits in his last nine at-bats. His on-base percentage is about 70 points higher than Brewers SS Yuniesky Betancourt. Carroll's value is the ability to play second base, shortstop and third base.

--SS Rafael Furcal, another possible trade candidate this weekend, is one home run away from tying Glenn Wright for second-most by a Dodgers shortstop. His career OPS is 747 in August, and his 781 OPS for September/October is the second-best month of his career.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 -- Days since the Dodgers put a player on the disabled list, the team's longest stretch of the season. The last was 3B Casey Blake on July 3.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "First of all, I haven't really decided on anything, so I can't really give you a definitive answer. Until today, I have been wearing a Dodgers uniform, and I'm playing here to win. I have heard a few things leading up to the trading deadline, so I have thought about what might happen. I will talk to my agent, and we will go from there." -- RHP Hiroki Kuroda, through interpreter Kenji Nimura, on the possibility of getting traded in the next three days.

*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH:
--RHP Kenley Jansen (irregular heartbeat) was hospitalized after the July 26 game, and he was released the next day. He is day-to-day. --INF Juan Uribe (lower abdominal pain) left the July 23 game and didn't play July 24-27. He is day-to-day.

--3B Casey Blake (neck strain) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on July 28.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He threw a bullpen session June 7. He made rehab appearances on June 21 and 23 for Class AAA Albuquerque, but he felt tightness in his elbow when playing catch June 25, and he was shut down from throwing. He had yet to resume throwing as of July 18. There is a chance he might not pitch again for the Dodgers this season.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right radial nerve irritation, sore neck) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14 due to the arm injury. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 29, but he was shut down in early June due to a neck ailment. He underwent neck surgery June 16, and he likely will miss the rest of the season.

--RHP Jon Garland (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2. He played catch June 21 but had to shut it down quickly. He underwent season-ending surgery during the All-Star break and began his rehab.

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