Tick, tick, tick.
As Tuesday’s nonwaiver trading deadline draws near and the Dodgers continue to look for another starting pitcher and solid bat, it should be noted that one struggling Dodger is starting to hit.
Are you ready for the return of … James Loney?
What, can you contain the excitement? Not going all in on the New Loney, Take 23?
Loney is a favorite whipping boy for those who demand a traditional power-hitting first baseman, if not those who simply demand that a talented player actually improve as he reaches his prime.
Loney is 28, in his seventh season with the Dodgers and has been going backward in his career since he averaged .285 with 13 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2008 and 2009.
A free agent at the end of the season, it’s been almost understood he would not return next season if he did not turn things around in 2012. And he was hitting .236 at the end of June with a .323 slugging percentage.
With only two games left in July, he’s hit .328 this month with a .391 slugging percentage. He’s no doubt benefited some from being in a semi-platoon with Juan Rivera at first and he’s no one’s concept of an ideal first baseman, but he has been productive. And he is still excellent defensively.
Last year Loney was truly horrid through July but then rebounded to hit .357 in the final two months and give hope to the flagging faithful.
The Dodgers would no doubt like to upgrade over Loney prior to the trading deadline, but with the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez it becomes less demanding that the upgrade comes at first. Left field is also a black hole, and whether they pursue the Phillies’ Shane Victorino or another outfielder, the addition of Ramirez at least gives them some flexibility in their search.
Meanwhile, Loney is starting to hit again, and a month earlier than last season when he batted .176 in July. Available first basemen are in slim supply, and the Twins apparently want a major-league pitcher in return for Justin Morneau.
For now, Loney remains the Dodgers’ primary first baseman. However loud that ticking.