Don Mattingly will fine James Loney for fly outs to left field

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James Loney is off to a terrible start and was benched against a left-handed pitcher yesterday, so in an effort to snap the first baseman out of his slump manager Don Mattingly has decided to fine him $1 each time he flies out to left field.

According to the Dodgers manager Loney will “take a dollar back every time he hits a line drive to left.”

Loney is making $4.9 million this season, so obviously a $1 fine is purely symbolic, but the fact that a first baseman is being urged not to hit fly balls to the outfield shows why the Dodgers should probably be looking for another first baseman.

Even at his best Loney’s lack of power made him a mediocre hitter and because of that he starts dragging the lineup down when he’s not hitting at least .280. Last season Loney hit .267 with just 10 homers and a .723 OPS, which ranked 22nd among the 24 first basemen with at least 500 plate appearances. So far this year he’s hitting .202 with a .471 OPS.

Line drives are a good thing and encouraging Loney to avoid fly balls is a reasonable stance given his lack of power, but the Dodgers would be better off finding a first baseman whose fly balls actually travel over the fence more than 10-15 times a season and with slugging prospect Jerry Sands waiting in the wings that switch may be in the near future.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.