Loney sees walks, average on the rise
Dodgers first baseman patiently waits for balls to drive
After walking about 7-7 ½ percent of the time in his first three seasons in the Majors, James Loney's walk rate stands at 14 percent to go along with a .324 batting average through the first 10 games of the '09 season.
"I'm just trying to get good pitches to hit," Loney told the Los Angeles Daily News. "You never want to give away at-bats, but I'm looking for something I can drive. Sometimes, I'll see a pitch that I might be able to hit, but maybe that isn't the pitch I want to hit. In that situation, you just want to be 100-percent sure."
"[Hitting coach] Donnie [Mattingly] is predicting great things for this kid," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That isn't to put any pressure on him, although he wouldn't know it if you did, anyway. I think what Donnie has tried to stress with him is just to use the middle of the field. He gets into trouble when he tries to pull. When you use the whole field, you get more pitches to pull. If you try to pull everything, the pitchers can pitch you one way."
Johnson now batting second: Washington manager Manny Acta has moved Nick Johnson and his high on-base percentage to the second slot in the lineup.
"I always want to have a deep enough lineup that I can have Nick hit second in my lineup," Acta told the Washington Post.
"Nick is an occasional power guy. He's not a 35-40-home-run type of guy," Acta said. "He's a line-drive hitter who takes walks, gets on base all the time. You can hit and run with him, do a bunch of things. He's just a good hitter to be in that spot."
Martinez not worried about facing batters: Joe Martinez is recovering from being hit in the head by a line drive. The Giants pitcher suffered a concussion, three hairline fractures and internal bleeding after being hit. But he is out of the hospital and thinking about returning to the mound.
"One of my buddies texted me," Martinez told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He said, 'Nice job -- first time on SportsCenter, getting hit in the head.' It was a little bizarre. I didn't think I'd be in that position."
"I don't think it's going to be a big deal," Martinez said of returning to the mound to pitch. "I've been hit 100 times before, never in the head like that, but my arm, chest and knee. It's not something you think about when you're out there. It's part of the game. I'm not worried about getting out there mentally facing hitters. I just want to make sure I'm ready physically."
Ichiro moves up the hitting ranks in Japan: Ichiro Suzuki became the all-time hits leader for a player born in Japan when his fourth-inning single on Thursday night gave him 3,068 base hits. Suzuki moved out of a tie with Isao Harimoto, who was at the ballpark to witness the event and was given a standing ovation from the crowd.
"Mr. Harimoto, in 1995 -- 14 years ago -- told me, 'The only guy who could break my record is you.' For him to have that vision of the future, for him to say that to a player that has only one year under his belt, I'm amazed," Ichiro told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"Although I didn't get the record just in Japan, I still want to express my respect for his record and what he did there," said Ichiro, who now has 1,808 hits in the U.S. to go along with 1,278 hits in Japan.
Backe makes progress in bullpen session: Brandon Backe threw 60 pitches during a bullpen session on Wednesday. Backe, who's on the disabled list with a strained rib cage muscle, threw 20 of those pitches under game-like conditions. Though Backe didn't have a setback, he was unable to go 100 percent due to the muddy mound at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
"I feel pretty good," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I was pretty cautious out there today. The mound is pretty reminiscent of the game [when] I got hurt. It would have been stupid of me to throw the ball hard and test it out with the mound the way it was."
Jackson eager to face one of the best: Conor Jackson is looking forward to Sunday, when the Diamondbacks will face former teammate Randy Johnson in San Francisco.
"We're facing a shoo-in Hall of Famer, and anytime you're facing a guy who has that status, it's always an exciting at-bat," Jackson told the Arizona Republic.
Wagner makes strong impression on recovery trail: Billy Wagner, who is recovering from major arm surgery, threw 23 pitches during a rehab outing in Florida while members of the Mets organization were on hand to watch. Wagner threw fastballs and changeups during his throwing session.
"We're just observing where he's at," Guy Conti, rehabilitation pitching coordinator for the Mets, told the New York Daily News following the 36-minute session. "This is a very long process. It's a matter of us putting our eyes on him. I haven't seen him since the end of last season. He's in tremendous shape, as you can tell."
Nady faces potential lost season: Xavier Nady may need season-ending surgery on his right elbow. Nady, who is being examined in New York, left Tuesday's game after experiencing sharp pain in his elbow. An MRI on Wednesday indicated a tear in the elbow.
"It's tough because I love taking the field with this group of guys," Nady told Newsday. "I feel like I'm letting down the organization. It hasn't necessarily sunk in today."
Kinsler proud to honor Robinson with cycle: With a single, double and home run already in the books for Ian Kinsler when he hit the ball into a gap on Wednesday night in the sixth inning of the Rangers' game against Baltimore, the Texas second basemen knew he was going to try for three bases.
After diving headfirst into third base, Kinsler became only the fourth Texas player to ever to hit for the cycle, joining Gary Matthews Jr. (2006), Mark Teixeira (2004) and Oddibe McDowell (1985) in the exclusive club.
"It's more special on Jackie Robinson Day," Kinsler, who also scored five runs, drove in four and stole a base, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He could do everything in the game. It was a weird thing that I was playing second on Jackie Robinson Day, and it happened."
Walters ready to make debut: P.J. Walters, who was St. Louis' Minor League pitcher of the year in 2007, made his Major League debut on Friday against the Cubs.
"Every game is a big game," Walters told MLB.com.
"Last year in Memphis wasn't exactly the way I planned it, but I learned a lot of things," Walters said. "And then I was able to work this winter and in the spring and got things back the way they should be. Going down there and being able to throw, have hitters in the box, it's a lot easier to tell how good what you're doing is."
Fukudome find magic potion for home runs: Kosuke Fukudome has hit safely in six of his last seven games with a .429 average, four doubles and eight RBIs to go with three home runs. After hitting 10 home runs last season, he already has three in 2009.
"I don't know how many I can hit," Fukudome told MLB.com through interpreter Hiro Aoyama. "But it would be nice to have more."
"Maybe it's because I'm eating rice before games," Fukudome said, smiling.
Wood prepares to be ready when needed: Kerry Wood didn't get his first chance for a save with his new team until the ninth game of the season, but that didn't in any way affect how he prepared for each game.
"No matter how much or how little work you get, you've got to be ready to go when the phone rings and it's your turn to pitch," Wood told MLB.com. "I try to stay even-keel down there."
Thornton got nerves out of the way early: Matt Thornton says his 0.00 ERA through his first five outings is a direct result of his work for Team USA early in the spring in the World Baseball Classic.
"It's really paying off for me," Thornton told MLB.com. "If I didn't have that big-game experience already, I probably would have been a little rusty, and the nerves would have gotten to me. I already got that out of the way."
Ponson trying to avoid early shower: When the Kansas City Royals signed veteran Sidney Ponson this offseason, they did so with the idea that he could stay on the mound deep into games.
"I'm here to throw innings," Ponson told MLB.com. "Hopefully, the deeper I go in the game, that means the better I'm pitching. You know, normally [if] you don't pitch good, you'll be taking a shower in the third or fourth inning."
Eyre finds success in comeback: Willie Eyre, who started the season on the disabled list, joined the Texas Rangers on Wednesday after being activated from the DL. Eyre, who hadn't pitched in a Major League game since August 2007, threw two scoreless innings on Wednesday night against Baltimore.
"I'm excited to be here," Eyre told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's been 18 months since I've been here. It's good to be back here. It's definitely going to be exciting to get back out there. There's a lot of adrenaline I'm going to have to hold back."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.