A leaner Dodgers’ James Loney sets strong tone

The questions regarding James Loney have never changed: Will he ever hit for power? If so, when?

“I feel this is the year,” Loney said Friday, the day of the Dodgers’ first full-squad workout of spring training.

Loney, 25, drove in 90 runs for the second consecutive year last season -- but also hit only 13 home runs for the second consecutive year.

Reporting to camp looking leaner but more muscular, Loney said he is under the 215 pounds he weighed in past springs. “I feel stronger,” he said. “It’s the strongest I’ve ever felt. I think I lost some of the baby fat just by getting older.”

Loney said he spent most of his off-season in the Houston area working out with such players as Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn and Scott Kazmir and made changes to his diet, eating more often but in smaller portions and replacing lemonade with water as his beverage of choice.

Loney said he has one weakness: cookie cakes.

It doesn’t help that he has a friend who works at a Nestle Toll House store.


“She’s always trying to bring me cookie cakes,” he said. “I’m like, ‘No!’ ”

Eating right and increasing muscle mass is only part of what Loney thinks will transform him as a hitter. “A lot of it’s technique too, me learning how to square up, staying there, knowing what pitch you can drive, all of that stuff,” he said.

Loney had a seesaw year but said he never grew frustrated. “I think I’ve always felt like I could eventually put it all together,” he said.

By his estimation, he did. He said he put into play what he practiced with hitting coach Don Mattingly, raising his average from .276 to .281 over his last 26 regular-season games, batting .329 with four home runs and 15 runs batted in.

“I felt good about what I did at the end,” he said. “But I felt like I could have had a better year. . . . I want to have a great year.”

Manny to Taiwan?

On the day Manny Ramirez reported to camp, he said this season could be his last in baseball. The next day, he said he wanted to play five more years.

Later in the week, Ramirez encouraged reporters to spread word that he was endorsing a strawberry-flavored energy drink with a sexually suggestive name. The next day, the agency that represents him said Ramirez didn’t have a deal with the drink manufacturer.

So take this news for what it’s worth: Manny Ramirez is on the list of 33 players who will travel to Taiwan for three exhibition games March 12 to 14 against a Taiwanese all-star team.

He volunteered for the trip, which most of the players on the 25-man roster are skipping, but several club officials said they’re not sure Ramirez will go.

He has wavered, according to these officials, saying on one day that he’ll go, on another that he won’t. That has kept the Dodgers from making a formal announcement. One of the officials shrugged and laughed.

Ramirez, asked Friday if he’ll make the trip, said, “I don’t know, papi. I don’t know.”

Short hops

The first full-squad workout didn’t look much different from the last couple of days because so many position players reported early. “This year, it’s a very confident group,” Manager Joe Torre said. . . . Jeff Weaver became a first-time father Wednesday -- a boy.