James Loney sits against left-hander Clayton Richard

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It was only a matter of when.

James Loney has actually begun to pick up the pace with the bat this week, including a four-hit game on Tuesday, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has benched him with the Padres sending left-hander Clayton Richard to the hill tonight.

Jerry Sands, who was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque early last week, will make his first major league start at first base tonight while Marcus Thames will start in left field. Thames hasn’t started a game since April 13 due to a quad injury, but we could see this lineup more often against left-handers if he’s truly healthy.

Loney has a .255 batting average and a .684 OPS against left-handed pitching during his career compared to a .294 batting average and an .802 OPS against righties.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.