03/06/11 4:27 PM ET
Loney's inflamed knee isn't serious
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"It's fine," Loney said, before disappearing back into the weight room.
The Dodgers' first baseman was off the field for a second day, but manager Don Mattingly said Loney would resume throwing and hitting Monday, running on Tuesday and could return to the lineup as early as Wednesday. It sounds like the MRI taken Saturday was as much to ease Loney's mind as to uncover anything major.
The knee is the same one that was operated on 10 years ago when Loney was in high school, but he hasn't missed any time because of it since signing with the Dodgers in 2002. He felt discomfort on the outside of the knee stretching Thursday and again after playing Friday night, but the club hasn't even labeled the injury anything other than swollen.
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"I talked to Stan [Conte, trainer] and it sounds good," said Mattingly. "He needs a couple days to get the inflammation out. It was kind of what they were hoping, not anything that is going to be a problem. It's the same knee he had surgery on 10 years ago, but no problem since. He may have taken a wrong step. Who knows what the cause is? It didn't sound serious. I'm sure James feels good about it. It makes me feel better."
With Loney out, rookie Russell Mitchell got a second consecutive start at first base. If that name doesn't excite you, at least know that he's the kind of player Mattingly and staff love, a "dirtbag" with the versatility to play the infield corners, left field and even catch in an emergency.
"We've talked about Mitchell a lot," said Mattingly. "He's pretty flexible. He's played both outfield corners and some second base and just enough catching in the instructional league. He may be a valuable piece as an emergency guy."
Mitchell, 26, bounced around for eight Minor League seasons before getting his first callup last September, hitting only .143 but launching two homers for the Dodgers after hitting .315 with 23 homers at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Mattingly acknowledged Mitchell doesn't currently project to make the Opening Day roster -- especially if Xavier Paul is kept as the sixth outfielder because he is out of options.
"But I like him," Mattingly said of Mitchell. "He's a tough kid, he's played all over. The kind of guy you never want to sell short, for me. He gets it done. The kind of guy I like."
Nonetheless, during fielding drills at Camelback Ranch-Glendale on Sunday, third baseman Casey Blake was working on bunt plays at first base. Mattingly also said left fielders Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons would get some work at first base this spring so they're comfortable enough over there to allow double-switching.
The Dodgers also are giving outfielder Jerry Sands significant time at first base, but Mitchell would more likely be the pick because Sands isn't yet on the Major League roster and Mitchell is.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.