NEW YORK -- James Loney arrived in the Dodgers' farm system in 2002 at the age of 17 out of Lawrence E. Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas, and he was greeted by an unfamiliar face.At the time, Terry Collins, currently in the midst of his sixth season as
NEW YORK -- James Loney arrived in the Dodgers' farm system in 2002 at the age of 17 out of Lawrence E. Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas, and he was greeted by an unfamiliar face.
At the time, Terry Collins, currently in the midst of his sixth season as the Mets' manager, was Los Angeles' field coordinator and would become the Dodgers' director of player development in 2005 as Loney ascended through the ranks. Fifteen years have passed since their first counter, but the two have reunited in New York after the Mets acquired the first baseman from the Padres for cash considerations on Saturday.
"He made me, basically," Loney said with a laugh. "He's been great, though. Over the years, I've seen him at different periods of time, and to come to this team, you can just tell that the energy and the vibe here is great.
"I've always felt like you want to win, obviously, but you also want to be in that right situation, and I really feel like this is the right situation."
The Mets' current situation leaves the club in dire need of corner infielders with both of their regulars dealing with injuries -- first baseman Lucas Duda is battling a stress fracture in his lower back, while David Wright is recovering from a herniated disc in his neck.
Enter Loney, who figures to get the majority of the playing time at first while Duda is sidelined (until late June at the earliest).
"He'll add a nice dimension for us," Collins said. "He's a very good first baseman. He's a good offensive player -- not necessarily a big power guy -- and he's a tremendous guy in the clubhouse."
In his seven years with the Dodgers from 2006-12, Loney batted .284 with 71 home runs and 451 RBIs. He was dealt to Boston midway through the 2012 campaign and batted just .230 in 30 games with the Red Sox.
Loney bounced back over the next three seasons with the Rays, though, hitting .291 with 26 home runs and 176 RBIs. Those numbers, however, were not enough to warrant a fourth season with Tampa Bay.
After finishing 25th in the Major Leagues in runs (644) last season, the Rays turned their focus to acquiring a few more slugging-oriented bats, adding Steve Pearce and Logan Morrison, and on April 3, Loney was released.
"It was a little shocking," Loney said. "The timing of it wasn't great, as far as trying to find a new team right around Opening Day, but there are a lot of things in this game that happen that you can't control."
The Houston native signed a Minor League contract with Padres five days later and reported to Triple-A El Paso, where he batted .342 (54-for-158) with 28 RBIs in 43 games.
"It was unique," Loney said. "It was interesting, but I had a really good time down there with those guys. … Triple-A has come a long way since I was last there."
Loney said that the Mets were not "on his radar" of teams that could be interested, but injuries paved the way for his return the Majors. In New York, not only does he reunite with Collins, but also with catcher Rene Rivera and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who were his teammates with Tampa Bay last season.
"I definitely liked hanging out with those guys last year," Loney said. "They are great teammates and great guys to play with. They bring a lot to the game, and I am happy [I get to play with them again]."
The first baseman is not sure if New York will be a long-term home, but like Tampa Bay, Loney knows that is something he can not control, stating that "his job is to go play."
Whether Loney stays or not, while he is in a Mets uniform, he will be striving to help the club try to achieve something it fell three games short of doing last season.
"You can tell they have something special going on here, and I've always wanted to be a part of something like that," Loney said. "I've always wanted to be in a winning atmosphere. I've had that in my career in the past, and it feels great to go to the playoffs. But I've never won a World Series, so I'm looking forward to working toward that."
Troy Provost-Heron is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.