Notes: For Loney, a game of hit and miss
Stellar day at plate overshadowed by trying outfield experiment
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- James Loney saw his first spring game action in the outfield Wednesday and looked like he ought to remain a first baseman.But after losing sight of three catchable balls in the Dodgers' 11-1 split-squad loss to St. Louis, Loney and manager Grady Little gave no indication that the great experiment would end. "It was a rough day in the outfield for veterans and those trying new positions," said Little. "It was a rough day for getting the first one under your belt. We'll get him back out there soon. I don't know when it will be. We know he can play there." Loney has only 15 games of Minor League and two games of Major League experience in the outfield. His main calling is that of a slick-fielding first baseman, but with Nomar Garciaparra signed to play there for two more years, the club is hoping Loney is versatile enough to deserve added at-bats in the outfield. Barring an injury, the only other way for Loney to make the Opening Day roster is for Garciaparra to move to third base, opening up first for Loney, but Little said that's not yet on his radar. Loney could have used radar or a GPS on the three balls he missed. One fell at his feet after he initially broke back, one sailed over his head after he initially broke in and another dropped foul near his feet. "You can't do anything if you can't see the ball off the bat," said Loney, who had a more successful day at the plate, with three singles and a walk. "I know how to read balls off the bat. I never played the outfield in a day game here and I've never seen the ball come out of the people and stuff from behind the plate."
At the plate, Loney had no problems. He went 3-for-3 with a walk and is batting .421 this spring.
Betemit breaks through: The Dodgers slugged three homers and Eric Stults became his team's first starter to go three innings this spring in a 10-0 rout of Florida Wednesday night that also saw the first hit of the spring for third baseman Wilson Betemit.
"I wasn't pressing, and I wasn't frustrated," said Betemit, who was 0-for-12 until the RBI single in the seventh. "I know what I can do. I know I can hit."
Betemit, with the third-base job his to lose this spring, said he's been jumping at pitches instead of staying back and letting his hands do the work of the swing.
"It's just a matter of time until he gets going, and that hit might be just what he needs," said Little.
With a lineup of mostly young players, the Dodgers got home runs from Tony Abreu (who also doubled, singled and drove in three), Delwyn Young and Jason Repko.
Stults is the forgotten man of the staff, rarely mentioned as a contender for the fifth starter's job even though he had as many victories last year as Hong-Chih Kuo. He allowed three hits but no runs.
"I hope I'm still vying for the fifth spot," said Stults. "I haven't heard if I am and I can't get wrapped up in it. They'll do what's best for the team. All I can control is what I do."
The left-hander said he has dusted off a cut fastball he hasn't used since 2002, before he blew out his elbow. The pitch is designed to run in on right-handed hitters.
Mike Megrew struck out four in two hitless innings.Saito's debut: Closer Takashi Saito's first game action was delayed a week because a calf strain prevented him from aggressively fielding his position. Naturally, his first pitch Wednesday to Skip Schumaker was tapped just past the mound. "The trainer told me to take it easy, but with the situation, my reactions took over and I jumped off the mound like I was going to cover first," said Saito. "There was no problem and I felt relieved after that." Saito went on to a scoreless inning, marred only when Loney misplayed Gary Bennett's sharp liner into a double.
"I was really happy with everything today," said Saito. "I felt like I was back on the mound in a Dodgers uniform. My calf felt healed and I was pitching without limitations. It was really good. I had to back up third base and tested my body. As far as my pitches, I'm where I should be, maybe ahead of schedule."Penny hit: Starter Brad Penny, working on a new two-seam fastball, allowed six runs on seven hits in two innings and wasn't throwing particularly hard by design, but said he felt fine. Hong-Chih Kuo followed by allowing one run in two innings. Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect inning. Injury update: Shortstop Rafael Furcal, sidelined for the second spring with a sore throwing shoulder, took batting practice in the cage for the first time since being shut down after the March 1 opener. He took 25 swings from each side and said he was pleased with the way it felt. Furcal said the soreness he experienced this spring was worse than last spring's, which was compounded by a knee still sore following surgery. Furcal still hasn't thrown and will probably return to game action initially as a designated hitter. Joe Beimel is listed to pitch Thursday night in the Dodgers' game against Florida. Beimel said he feels fine after experiencing mild elbow discomfort following one inning against Boston on Monday. Marlon Anderson still isn't throwing or hitting because of an inflamed elbow, from which bone chips were removed last October. Anderson has been on the shelf for a week after too much throwing and hitting irritated the soft tissue around the elbow. Coming up: Derek Lowe and Brett Tomko are among the pitchers listed to throw Thursday night against Florida, which will start Anibal Sanchez. Tomko is fighting for the fifth starter's job.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.