New incentive could help Loney buck trend

New incentive could help Loney buck trend

LOS ANGELES -- For the second straight game, the Dodgers faced a left-handed starter and James Loney found himself on the bench, watching rookie Jerry Sands take his swings against an opposing southpaw.

Considering that Loney is hitting .125 (3-for-24) against lefties this year, subbing him out for the right-handed-hitting Sands makes sense as the logical move. But when asked if there's a platoon forming at first base, manager Don Mattingly was emphatic with his response.

No.

What kind of situation is there, then?

"We've got a right-handed situation tonight," Mattingly said. "James is going to get his at-bats against lefties. But for right now we're going to try to get some offense going."

As the Dodgers continue struggle to score (their 111 runs through 29 games ranked 11th in the National League) Loney's slow start has become more pronounced.

His batting average is just a hair above the Mendoza Line (.204), and he only has two extra-base hits in 108 at-bats.

There have been moments that Loney appeared on the verge of busting out of his seasonlong slump, like his four-hit game in Florida on April 26. And on Monday, Mattingly revealed a new tactic he hopes sparks Loney's turnaround.

It's called Loney's Fly Ball Jar. How does it work?

"Anytime he flies out to left he's got to give me a dollar," Mattingly said.

Conversely, Loney gets a dollar anytime he hits a line drive. Whether each ball goes down as a fly or a liner will be up to Mattingly.

"I want him to keep the ball low to left field; that's the main thing," Mattingly said.

Of Loney's 22 hits this year, only five have gone to the opposite field. Loney said the key to him having success hitting the ball to left is a more instinctual swing.

"When I get the ball in the air, I tend to come up under the ball sometimes," he said. "Try to manipulate it over there instead of just letting it go."

Loney said his timing issues at the plate from the beginning of the season are no longer an issue. The Dodgers definitely hope that's the case as they continue to search for a hitter to pair with the red-hot Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. If Loney becomes a consistent hitter again, that'll go a long way toward filling that void.

"If we're going to be a club that contends, we can't count on Matt and Andre to hit .390 all year," Mattingly said. "We're going to have to get contributions all over the lineup. And James is one of those pieces that we really count on to do that."