Notes: Loney would welcome trade
First baseman not happy about getting sent to Triple-A
MILWAUKEE -- The season opener for James Loney is Thursday night in Salt Lake City, not exactly where and when he was hoping for.
When told Saturday night he was being sent back to the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, Loney was told by management that he's ready for the Major Leagues, but the opportunity doesn't currently exist. Loney then told the team if a trade to another club is necessary to create that opportunity, he'd welcome it.
"He didn't demand it. He suggested it as an option," said Joe Urbon, Loney's agent. "He was the best hitter in the Minor Leagues last year and they re-signed Nomar Garciaparra for two years. If James only gets to the Major Leagues when Nomar gets hurt, he could be sitting around until 2009. No one wants to be a Dodger more than James. But he's disappointed and frustrated. As he said, he can't help the [Dodgers] in Las Vegas."
Told the club wanted him playing regularly and not sitting on a Major League bench, Loney saw good friend Matt Kemp make the Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder, even though Kemp hit 111 points less than Loney in Spring Training.
The reasoning now seems clear: Manager Grady Little is more likely to play Kemp in one of the corner outfield spots manned by left-handed hitters Luis Gonzalez and Andre Ethier than he was to play Loney over a healthy Garciaparra, a five-time All-Star.
Urbon said the club's response to Loney's comments was "diplomatic." Urbon also said Loney understands the club can afford to keep him on ice as insurance for Garciaparra, who has an extensive injury history.
"On that point, no one can fault them. They are the envy of every organization to have that luxury," said Urbon. "But don't say to the player you can't sit on the bench after signing a guy ahead of you for two years. It's hard to accept."
Perhaps harder is accept is why the Dodgers did not trade Loney after re-signing Garciaparra, creating the likelihood of an unhappy young player blocked from advancing despite exceptional performance.
"They've got one of the best young players," said Urbon. "Go out and get what you need if you won't let him play."
The Dodgers re-signed Garciaparra less than two weeks after being blindsided by the departure of J.D. Drew. At the time, the only proven Major League hitters in the projected lineup were Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal.
Furcal update: Shortstop Rafael Furcal tested his healing ankle in the indoor batting cage for the first time, but Little again offered no timetable on the shortstop's return. He is eligible to be activated off the disabled list Saturday, although that still looks very unlikely. Furcal hasn't taken batting practice, fielding practice or run.
"He was swinging the bat good with very little irritation, but he's yet to run and when he runs we'll be able to get a good read on when he's able to play," said Little.
Martin's power: As a rookie last year, catcher Russell Martin hit 10 home runs in 415 at-bats, and he's never hit more than 15 in five professional seasons.
But he already has one in two games and it went to center field Tuesday night, getting out in a hurry with a seemingly effortless swing.
How many does Martin think he can hit in a season?
"I hit 20 in 35 games in Little League," he said with a smile. "I've never considered myself a power guy. I don't think about a number and try to achieve it. I just hit the best I can and whatever it adds up to is what I get."
Martin said he believes he'll be a more comfortable hitter this year because of his familiarity with pitchers the second year around.
"Now I know how they approach me," he said. "In the Minor Leagues, every year you see a whole new stock of pitchers. I had already faced [Chris] Capuano six times. I had an idea on him and it helped me a lot."
Opening Day parking: Opening Day at Dodger Stadium is sold out, and the parking lot will sell out as well. In order to accommodate as many fans as possible, the Dodgers are offering fans that carpool (at least four fans per automobile) a free ticket for each passenger to a future game if they arrive at Dodger Stadium at 9:30 a.m. and park in Lot 15. This offer is limited to the first 600 automobiles. Lot 15 is a special access parking lot that is only utilized during sold-out games. Fans will need to enter via the Academy Gate between 9:30 am and 10:15 am. In addition to the free ticket for a future game, fans who carpool and park in Lot 15 will have early access to Opening Day batting practice via the Left-Field Pavilion. You must have tickets to Opening Day in order to participate in this special offer. Additionally, the lots on Stadium Way near the LAFD Training Facility will cost just $5.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.