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Expect James Loney To Sit Often Against Left-Handed Pitchers

Expect James Loney to sit more against left-handed pitchers this season.
Expect James Loney to sit more against left-handed pitchers this season.

Dodgers first baseman James Loney is off to a poor start this season, at 0-for-14, with two walks. But that's not why he's sitting Wednesday night against the Pirates. Erik Bedard is starting on the mound for the Pirates, and Bedard happens to throw a baseball with his left hand.

"If it was a righty, he'd be in there for sure. It's kind of been the plan from the beginning. It keeps Jerry a part the mix," manager Don Mattingly said.

Utility man Jerry Hairston Jr., who bats right handed, is the one being kept in the mix, starting tonight in left field while Juan Rivera moves to first base. Often during spring training Mattingly said he didn't want to have a strict platoon at either first base or right field with Andre Ethier, but it appears Loney at the very least will sit more often this season against lefties.

"It has really been the plan since we went into spring training, is giving him days off against lefties," Mattingly said. "There are still plenty of at-bats for James."

Loney has sat twice in three games against lefties this year, after starting 26 of 44 games against southpaws in his career. Loney is a career .251/.307/.366 hitter against lefties, and hit .213/.254/.307 last year against them.

The Dodgers are scheduled to face Clayton Richard Friday night in the series opener against the Padres. Loney, who is 1-for-7 with four strikeouts against Richard, was not in the starting lineup on Sunday when the Dodgers faced Richard at Petco Park.

Jansen Finds Rhythm

Kenley Jansen allowed a home run in his first outing of the season last Thursday in San Diego, continuing a long ball trend from spring training. But the right-hander has recovered thanks to a slight mechanical fix to his delivery.

"Ever since Rick [Honeycutt, pitching coach] got in the film room on him, and he and Kenny [Howell, bullpen coach] went to work, he's been pretty solid," Mattingly said.

Jansen has retired all nine batters he has faced in his last two innings, with four strikeouts. Mattingly said he has noticed an uptick in velocity from Jansen but that the speed wasn't the most important aspect of his game.

"With Kenley it's finish," Mattingly said. "You don't see it and it gets on you, and has that little hop at the end. It looks straight, I know it cuts a little bit, but it just gets by guys."

Mattingly said that he is not opposed to using Jansen in the seventh inning if the situation arises, though he would like to limit multiple-inning performances whenever possible.

"You'd like to keep to keep him available pretty much nightly, he and Javy," Mattingly said. "He's a big strong guy, but we don't want to blow him up either."

Seventh Inning Man

While Mattingly isn't opposed to bringing in Jansen in the seventh inning, the manager said he would prefer to have that inning pitched in most cases by Matt Guerrier, now in his second year of a three-year contract. Mattingly said Guerrier feels more comfortable this year.

"I think last year was an adjustment year for him. It's one of the things I talked to him about right away in spring training, to not try and come over here and show us what he can do," Mattingly said. "He's already proven he can pitch in the big leagues and established himself.

"When guys come to a new organization, a new league, with new coaches, new teammates, you're not quite yourself. You're in Minnesota and have been there your whole career, the coaches know who you are and what you can do. When you and your wife roll up into town, you know where to stay. It's a whole other scene when you come as a free agent to a new team, it's a big adjustment."

I asked if Juan Uribe was going through a similar adjustment period since he, like Guerrier, signed a big money, three-year contract before 2011. Mattingly said it was a different situation with Uribe since he missed so much time due to injury, playing only 77 games.

"Juan has always been a great guy in the clubhouse. He just had a rough year on the field, to be able to put together any kind of consistency," Mattingly said. "He didn't really do anything, honestly. But he was never in there game after game after game after game, to start finding that hot streak."

Uribe, who went 3-for-3 on Tuesday, starts his fifth game out of six tonight, at third base.

Game Time: 7:10 p.m.

TV: Prime Ticket (after the end of the Clippers vs. Thunder game in Oklahoma City, which began at 5 p.m.)

MLB Gameday