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Loney excited to play at old stomping grounds

LOS ANGELES -- James Loney called Dodger Stadium home for nearly seven seasons, and Friday was the first time the Rays' first baseman returned to the ballpark since he was traded last August.

The Dodgers drafted Loney out of high school in the first round of the 2002 Draft, and he came up through their farm system before making his Major League debut with the club in 2006.

Loney went to the postseason three times with the Dodgers but was traded to the Red Sox last season in the deal that brought Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles.

Regardless, Loney was excited Friday to be back at Chavez Ravine.

"I remember my first game here and stuff like that," said Loney, still getting acclimated to the visitor's clubhouse. "It's crazy how long ago that was. I'm just taking it all in. I'm happy to be playing back here. It's going to be fun."

Loney finished the 2012 season with the Red Sox, and then signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Rays. He struggled offensively during his final year with the Dodgers, but he has enjoyed greater success in his first year with Tampa Bay and entered Friday hitting .307 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs.

"I'm getting to play, being myself, having fun and relaxing," said Loney, who still keeps in touch with some of his former Dodgers teammates.

Loney was a popular player during his time in Los Angeles but said he wasn't sure what kind of reaction he would get from the crowd.

After the top of the first inning, the Dodgers showed a clip of Loney's grand slam in Game 1 of the 2008 National League Division Series against the Cubs, and the crowd cheered.

"I haven't found many people who don't like James," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for
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