Down on the Dodger Farm - May 24

For hitters any injury to the hands are the hardest to overcome. It's like an internal combustion engine trying to operate smoothly with faulty pistons. James Loney can tell you all about this. He's trying to recover from a second serious setback involving his hands in his short career. Inevitably, it hasn't been easy but, maybe, just maybe, the corner has been turned.

A broken wrist ended his rookie season in 2002 and affected his swing for a good part of 2003. He came back for a splendid spring in which he was simply the best hitter in the Dodger camp. But shortly after the opening of the regular season he suffered a broken finger which became infected, delaying his return for almost a month. Since coming back, the timing and bat control have been more miss than hit.

Monday night, though, he seemed more like the 19-year-old batting prodigy he is expected to be. Oh, not a huge evening but a solid one with two singles that brought his average up to .219 and helped Jacksonville get back into the winning column as the Suns broke a three-game losing skein by taking Huntsville (Brewers) 3-1.

Lefthander Derek Thompson, another returning from a serious injury, threw a strong four-hitter to control the Stars for seven innings, giving up just that lone run. Franquelis Osoria and Yhency Brazoban did the rest. Thompson, who missed all last season after arm surgery, is now 2-2 while Brazoban earned his seventh save .

Nick Alvarez and Edwin Bellorin joined Loney in cranking out two hits and Brennan King smacked his fourth homer. The victory pulled the Suns back to within one game of the top spot in the Southern League East as leading Chattanooga lost. Carolina also won to stay deadlocked with Jacksonville for second .

That victory was the only one for Dodger forces, though. Las Vegas opened a series in Colorado Springs (Rockies) where they fell again, 10-8 for their sixth straight setback. Vero Beach was edged by the Lakeland Tigers 6-5 and Columbus' seven-game streak came crashing down as it was bludgeoned by Asheville (Rockies), 15-4.

Vegas had rallied twice from four run deficits only to have the relief corps go astray. Antonio Perez accounted for five RBI with two doubles and his fourth homer, Luis Garcia sent No. 15 out of the yard and rehabbing Jayson Werth singled twice and stole a base but it still wasn't enough. The Sky Sox assaulted Eric Knott (0-1) for four in the seventh, then added three more off Augustin Montero in the eighth.

The 51's are now seven back in the Pacific Coast League South.

For the first time this season, Vero's Jonathan Broxton gave up a home run. He then was touched for another, yielding five runs in all, winding up the loser to even his record at 3-3. Joel Guzman ripped his eighth homer while Russ Mitchell contributed a triple and single with Bryan Goelz doubling and singling. Vero is currently eight games behind in the Florida State East.

Ozzie Rodriguez (2-2) received his first starting assignment for Columbus but was bounced around for six runs before he left in the fourth. The Tourists kept right on raining the hits on Carlos Alvarez and Arturo Lopez including a home run by Ed Montague, the son of the major league umpire, who had been released by L.A. during spring training.

Jereme Milons and Jimmy Rohan were the only Dodgers with two hits. The good news was that Charleston, S.C., also lost so the Catfish remained in a tie for first place in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.

Injury Update- The Dodgers' Dave Roberts is expected to join Vero Beach for a short rehab assignment beginning this evening.