Loney Not Taking Any Chances

James Loney battered spring training pitchers over the past two years, hitting .438 and .414 but in neither occasion could he wangle a spot on the Dodgers starting roster. So he is expecting no favors this year despite hitting .331 with 15 home runs after being called up from Las Vegas in June 2007.

"I try to come into every spring training trying to earn a spot, and that's how I still look at it," Loney said. "In this game, you've got to be consistent and you've got to have that right approach."

In 2007, Loney was coming off a .380 season at Las Vegas and was the in organization's minor league player of the year.

Didn't matter.

The plane flew off to Los Angeles without him on board and he couldn't hide his frustration -- but he wasn't there very long.

After hitting .342, Loney was called up in June and displaced Nomar Garciaparra, who switched over to third base.

"I think everybody when they get in this environment they want to feel they belong," the 23-year-old Loney said. "I think that's part of the confidence thing when you are out there playing this game. You've got to be confident."

Joe Torre, getting his first look at the young player, said "The thing about these young kids is not only their ability, which is apparent, but they don't feel they don't belong here. They are going to learn, they are going to get better, but these youngsters, the taste they've had here has made a difference in their demeanor and mentality."

Torre then hinted that Loney was, indeed, a candidate for the third spot in the batting order. "One thing about the third spot, there's more responsibility, but there's more protection too," he said. "We would probably have to follow him with an Andruw Jones or Jeff Kent. There are a lot of options, but it's important with a young player to try to put him in a situation where he can succeed."

Loney proved himself last year and intends to do again this season. "It's good to feel you have something to prove, just to keep yourself honest," Loney said. "It's a game of failure in some aspects, and it's how you deal with it and how you try to get better at your game."

First Real Action
Non-roster left-hander Mike Myers started the intrasquad game Sunday afternoon and fanned Tony Abreu and James Loney in his only inning of work. It has been quite some time since the 38-year old has seen his name penciled in as the starter. Myers has appeared in 883 big league games, which is 22nd all-time, and none as a starter. He did make 80 starts in the minor leagues in 127 games, but the last time he started a contest was in 1994.

The game only lasted five innings as General Manager Ned Colletti and Manger Joe Torre were able to begin their "official" evaluation of the 2008 Dodgers. The contest pitted "Team Koufax" against "Team Drysdale" and featured a triple by outfielder Matt Kemp, three hits from outfielder John Lindsey, a RBI double by A.J. Ellis, and a two-run double by John-Ford Griffin. Dodger shortstop Chin-lung Hu also had two hits. On the mound, Myers, Tanyon Sturtze, Eric Hull, Mike Koplove, Greg Jones, Fernando De La Cruz, and Brian Shackelford all tossed scoreless innings.     

Non-roster invitee John Lindsey crushed the ball in each of his at-bats, going 3-for-3 with a double, RBI, and two runs scored. Although most haven't had a chance to watch the 245-lb. first baseman, his numbers at both Double and Triple-A last season should make this performance come as no surprise. Lindsey led all Dodger minor leaguers with a combined 30 home runs and 121 RBI last year, while also hitting .317. The Missouri native was named the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Month for July, when he batted .337 (32-for-95) with nine homers, 39 RBI and a .716 slugging percentage during the month for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. Lindsey is in his 14th year in professional baseball, but has never made the Major Leagues after stints in the Colorado, Seattle, and Florida Organizations.

Reliever Scott Proctor has had three one-on-one instructional sessions with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

"Unbelievable," Proctor said. "It's something I will definitely cherish for the rest of my career and tell my kids about.

"The great thing about Sandy is that he is such a down-to-earth guy. He is such a caring individual. Some coaches, as soon as you have success, they want to take credit. But Sandy doesn't care about any of that."

Chef Saito in Action
The Dodgers' remarkable closer, Takashi Saito, was delighted when the club signed fellow countryman Hiroki Kuroda. And as a bonus, included in the package was an interpreter and the two pitcher's representatives.

So Sammy and his little group have met five or six times in the first days of spring training at Saito's rental home in Vero Beach. The group now includes Asian operations director Acey Kohrogi and traveling secretary Scott Akasaki.

"Chef Saito," as he refers to himself, has prepared everything from a spinach salad with egg and bacon to a fried dish with shrimp and tofu and said he likes to cook anything "except salad."

More Signings
Right fielder Matt Kemp, right-hander Jonathan Broxton, infielder Chin-Lung Hu, left-hander Eric Stults and catcher Lucas May signed contracts. With less than three years experience and no negotiating leverage, all were expected to receive the $390,000 Major League minimum or modestly above it. That included All Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger catcher Russell Martin, who earned $387,500 last year.

Hot Ticket
Fans are jumping at what probably is their last chance to see the Los Angeles Dodgers play spring-training games at Dodgertown, particularly their March 9 game against the Red Sox.

Individual tickets for Boston sold out in three days although the game was rained out after only a couple innings by a mini-Florida hurricane.

But take heart. seats are still available for the Red Sox, but only through purchasing the $56 mini-plan pack. This set of tickets includes the Boston game March 9, as well as games against Florida (March 11) and Washington (March 12).

The St. Patrick's Day game on March 17 against the Houston Astros, the team's final game ever at Dodgertown — has limited seats left, as does the "Meet the Dodgers" game against the New York Mets on March 2.

Lowe and Behold
Derek Lowe reports that his new offseason conditioning program is working.

"I definitely feel stronger and I hope that means I can be more consistent," said Lowe, who reunited in the offseason with his former Red Sox physical therapist.

"I want to be able to repeat my delivery game in and game out. I'm very encouraged by what I see and how I feel so far. I feel my whole body is stronger. This time of year, you're just looking for command of pitches and I'm happy with it." Lowe hopes his greater flexibility has made last year's hip/groin problems a non-issue.

Downing Honored
Former Dodger pitcher and broadcaster Al Downing is in his native Trenton, New Jersey today to receive the "Most Athletic Award," which will be known as the Al Downing Award going forward. The Mayor of Trenton and representatives from the New Jersey Governor's Office and State Assembly were on hand at the New Jersey State Museum to honor Downing.

Quote of the day-- "I think it's almost understandable. The Dodger fans from New York are no longer with us. Most of their fan base is on the West Coast. It just sort of made sense to them, I guess. I'm sad to see them go. I have a lot of friends there, but most of them are not there anymore, either. They're either retired or whatever happens. But that's the way it works." -- Sandy Koufax, Dodgers legend and Vero Beach resident, on the club's announced move to a new Spring Training complex in Arizona.         

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