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Kenny Lofton signs with the Dodgers


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Lofton adds new dimensions to Dodgers

KEN PETERS

Associated Press

 

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Dodgers think they added new dimensions to their roster by signing Kenny Lofton.

 

"His ability to get on base and score runs, combined with his speed and defense, are great additions to our club," general manager Ned Colletti said.

 

Lofton indeed has proven multitalented over his long major league career. He has a .299 career batting average, his 567 steals are the most of any current major leaguer, and he's a four-time Gold Glove winner.

 

"I've always been a guy who can impact the team in so many aspects: defensively, offensively, on the base paths, in the dugout. As long as I'm out there I feel good about it," Lofton said Tuesday after the Dodgers announced their agreement with the 38-year-old outfielder, who received a $3.85 million, one-year deal.

 

He figures to be the Dodgers' regular center fielder, a spot left open when Los Angeles traded Milton Bradley to Oakland last week.

 

Lofton's skills have not been overly diminished by age. The six-time All-Star hit .335 in 110 games for Philadelphia last year, the NL's highest average among players with 350 or more at-bats. He had a .392 on-base percentage and hit .330 with runners in scoring position.

 

"His skills are very similar to earlier in his career," Colletti said. "He knows how to play, how to win."

 

Lofton gets a $350,000 signing bonus, a $3.5 million salary and the chance to earn $150,000 in performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.

 

The Dodgers also re-signed first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, avoiding arbitration. Choi gets a one-year deal for $725,000.

 

Lofton led the AL in steals for five consecutive seasons, 1992-96, and was an All-Star from 1994-99.

 

He has spent most of his career in center, and has a fielding percentage of .984. Last year, he had seven outfield assists in 97 games, tied for third among major league center fielders.

 

"I understand what I can and can't do and just go out and play the game my way," Lofton said.

 

During his 18 years in the majors, Lofton has played in the postseason nine different years, including appearances in the division series from 1995-99.

 

Two of his teams have made it to the World Series, including San Francisco in 2002. Acquired by the Giants at the trade deadline that season, his game-winning single in Game 5 of the NLCS clinched the pennant for San Francisco.

 

"In 2002 when he came to the Giants, his impact on the club was immeasurable," said Colletti, a former assistant GM in San Francisco. "Without Kenny Lofton, the Giants wouldn't have wound up in the postseason and the World Series."

 

Colletti, who became the Dodgers' general manager on Nov. 15, earlier added free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, third baseman Bill Mueller and Nomar Garciaparra, who will play first base.

 

Lofton likes the moves made by Colletti, who also hired manager Grady Little.

 

"I know they're looking to win, and that's what I'm all about," Lofton said. "At this point, I see that the Dodgers are making their move forward, putting guys on the field who have been there, done that."

 

Choi came to the Dodgers from Florida in a July 2004 trade. He hit .253 last season and set career highs in games played (133), hits (81) and RBIs (42) and matched his career best with 15 homers. In 363 games spanning five major league seasons, Choi has a .240 batting average with 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews...ws/13451788.htm

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