James Loney tries new hitting incentive
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney, who was out of the starting lineup against an opposing left-handed pitcher for the second time in the past four days on Monday night because of his .125 average this season against southpaws, now has a new reason to try to hit more opposite-field line drives than fly balls.
Manager Don Mattingly said that starting with Monday night's game against the Chicago Cubs, when Loney wasn't slated to start against left-hander James Russell, he will fine Loney $1 each time he flies out to left.
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"And then he said he wants to take a dollar back every time he hits a line drive to left,'' said Mattingly, who went along with that request. "I want him to keep the ball low to left field. This will give him a chance to keep working on it.''
Mattingly said he will be the judge on any of those arcing balls that are difficult to categorize as a line drive or fly ball.
The left-handed-hitting Loney said the key to hitting more liners to left will be making sure he squares the ball -- as opposed to getting under it -- something that is tougher to do hitting balls on the outer half the opposite way.
"The ball is farther from your bat, so you have to reach for it,'' Loney said.
Loney is hitting a disappointing .204 overall, but he has struggled much more against lefties. Mattingly's mostly right-handed lineup against Russell included Jerry Sands playing first base in place of Loney and little-used Marcus Thames playing left in place of Sands, but Mattingly was quick to say this isn't a platoon situation in which Loney always will sit against opposing lefties.
"I want to get James going, but I feel like this lineup is better today,'' Mattingly said. "I want to get Marcus in there because he is better against lefties than righties. James will get his at-bats against lefties, but for right now, I'm trying to get some offense going.''
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.