Ethier, Loney are on the comeback trail

Ethier, Loney are on the comeback trail

Ethier, Loney are on the comeback trail
LOS ANGELES -- Management wants the young Dodgers core to step up its game. Andre Ethier and James Loney, while participating in the annual community caravan on Monday, said they were confident of doing their parts with bounceback seasons in 2011.

In 2010, a hyperextended knee in Spring Training and a sprained ankle during the first week of the season didn't stop Ethier from an All-Star Game start, but a broken little finger, an injury sustained in a freak batting-practice mishap, put him on the disabled list, and he now admits the finger never healed.

"For me, even though it was just a little finger, it held me up," said Ethier. "It never stopped hurting, even into the offseason. My kid would grab the finger and I'd have to pull back quick. It was still sore.

"During the season I lost my strength in the hand and forearm because I wasn't able to swing the same way. Maybe I didn't realize it. I probably rushed back two, three, four weeks early. I didn't take the time I needed, because I felt I had to come back to help the team win."

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Ethier finished with a .292 average, 23 homers and 82 RBIs. But in the six weeks before the finger injury, he went .380-11-38, whereas in the final four months he was .263-12-44. And his struggles continued against left-handers (.233).

Ethier said that the pain finally disappeared while he rehabbed over the winter in Gilbert, Ariz., with former Arizona State teammate and Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia.

"I feel like I've finally taken the right steps," Ethier said.

By contrast, Loney was healthy but lost his approach at the plate during the second half of the season, hitting .211 after the All-Star break. His .267 overall average was the lowest of his career, and he struggled to a .221 average against left-handed pitching. He had 88 RBIs, but only 25 in the second half. And he hit just 10 home runs on the season at positions -- first base and in the middle of the batting order -- where power is expected.

Loney said that he has "revamped" his swing path in recent sessions with batting coach Jeff Pentland and is comfortable again, physically and mentally.

"I have to stay precise with the bat on the ball," said Loney, who agreed to a one-year salary of $4.875 million last week to avoid arbitration. "I got to where I tried too hard to do this and that, and you can get to where you overdo it in certain situations. I have to slow myself down and not try to hit the ball 800 feet.

"I felt at times I wasn't relaxing, and that compounded it. I've watched video, and visualizing it helps. I can see things I wasn't doing -- not major things, but minor things can become major. I didn't have the right mechanics and didn't have the season I wanted. I feel more confident now, I definitely do. I'm working hard to get the most out of my ability.

"Last year was tough, mentally, to be out of the playoff picture. I've almost always been around a winning environment. It's tough when the attitudes are not always there. I hope they will be this year. A few guys struggled at the same time, and we tried harder, and it seemed to get worse. We'd get the pitching and wouldn't get the hitting. Or we'd hit and not get the pitching. I hope this year we get on the same page."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.