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Arizona Fall League Notebook
By Jack Magruder
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--James Loney took patience to a different level this summer, when he spent more than a month with Jacksonville as an outpatient because of an infection in his left middle finger.
It was not a season for the weak of spirit . . . or flesh.
Loney missed about five weeks very early in the season--his third in pro ball since signing as the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2002--while on the disabled list because of the infection, and for most of that time had a small tube surgically taped to his left forearm near the elbow to allow him to self-medicate.
Three times a day, for a total of about 15 minutes, Loney would inject himself with an antibiotic to treat the infection.
Not exactly the typical summer rehab, but doctors figured that was the best way to treat it, given Loney's irregular schedule due to his line of work.
"I took antibiotic pills, and then I had to have an IV through my veins," said Loney, who is making up for lost time while playing first base for Scottsdale. "I could do it at home. I would put the antibiotics through the tube and they went right into my vein. You squeeze it for about 30 seconds, and then stop, then squeeze it 30 seconds more.''
Loney, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, was injured while playing his aggressive style. Running from first, Loney slid into second base while trying to break up a double play against Greenville in an early April game. Shortstop Tony Pena Jr. came sidearm with the throw, and the ball caught the tip of Loney's left middle finger.
He missed a few days to permit the finger to heal, then had a pinch-hit single about a week later, which he believed signaled his impending return. But when the finger would not heal, another exam revealed an infection had worked its way deep into the finger. He was not back in the lineup until mid-May, finishing .238-4-35 with 19 doubles in 104 games.
"I was probably too excited to come back," Loney said. "During that time (off), I was just riding the bike, trying to stay in shape, doing sit-ups and stuff. But I really couldn't do anything with my hand because the needle was in my arm and I couldn't use the arm that much. They just put it in there and covered it up with a wrap. It was weird. My body probably wasn't fully ready to come back after sitting out for so long. In this sport, you can't really do that. You have to physically prepare for every game. Me, being out six weeks, I just wanted to go out there and do something. At first, I couldn't really hit it that hard. But after a week or two after playing, it felt just about right.
"I think I lost a lot of my strength during that time because I really couldn't work out or anything. That was kind of tough. Then I came back and tried to get back in the groove. It took me a while to get back in it. So it was kind of up and down.''
Loney wasted little time settling in with Scottsdale. He had two hits and an RBI the third day of the season, won an Oct. 14 game with a sacrifice fly to break a tie in the eighth inning of a 5-4 victory over Grand Canyon, and had four hits and an RBI in a 10-6 over the Peoria Javelinas the next day.
He is hitting .328-1-8 with two doubles in 15 games with the first-place Scorpions, and with his nine walks has a .412 on-base percentage.
Loney's long, athletic body projects power, although he has yet to develop into a home run hitter. He was .356-5-35 in his first pro season, which was spent mostly at Rookie-level Great Falls but also included a promotion to Class A Vero Beach. He was .276-7-46 with 31 doubles at Vero in 2003.
Most scouts seem to believe that Loney can still grow into a 25-30 homer guy, and are apparently willing to write off this season because of the injury.
"Guys like him (drafted) out of high school, sometimes they find their power sooner later rather than sooner," an NL scout said. "There is still a lot to like there."
"It was a freak accident. I just wish that it didn't happen, really," Loney said. "That's why I'm glad I came here, to try to get back in it. I feel pretty good so far. I feel like I am stronger, and I feel more comfortable now that everything is OK. I just feel like that (power) is going to come."
• Phoenix righthander Houston Street (A's), who pitched for Texas in the College World Series in June, has fit in well in the Fall League, his fourth pro stop since being a sandwich pick by Oakland in the 2004 draft. Street, named the AFL pitcher of the week for games of Oct. 18-23, was 0-0, 0.90 ERA with four saves in his first 10 innings, striking out 11 while giving up eight hits and a walk. Street played at low Class A Kane County, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento before being assigned to the Fall League.
• Scottsdale second baseman Rickie Weeks (Brewers) gave his father something to shoot with a two-homer game in a 7-4 loss to the Peoria Javelinas on Oct. 26. Weeks' father, Rickie Sr., spent some time in the Fall League with his son and brought his camcorder to capture the action. Weeks went deep again on Oct. 29.
• Peoria Javelina outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (Mariners) had a two-homer game in a 9-8 victory over Scottsdale on Oct. 25, his first two homers of the season.
• The Peoria Saguaros scored nine runs in the seventh inning of a 10-2 victory over Phoenix on Oct. 29, when 10 consecutive batters reached with two outs.
• Scottsdale DH Jesse Gutierrez (Reds) was 5-for-7 with an RBI in a 19-10 victory over Mesa on Oct. 27, the fourth player and the third Scorpion to post a five-hit game this season.
• Phoenix shortstop Omar Quintanilla (A's) was 5-for-5 with an RBI and a run Oct. 26. Scottsdale shortstop Tommy Whiteman (Astros) was 5-for-5 on Oct. 19. Scottsdale third baseman Royce Huffman (Astros) was 5-for-5 with a homer Oct. 18.