Dodgers, James Loney set hearing date

The arbitration hearing for Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney, the club's only unresolved arbitration case, is scheduled for Feb. 18 in Phoenix, general manager Ned Colletti confirmed via text message Thursday.

The hearing could be avoided if the sides agree to terms on a salary figure for Loney for 2011, but the gap between the numbers filed by Loney and the club is large.

Loney avoided arbitration last winter by agreeing to terms on a $3.1 million contract. This year, when teams and eligible players exchanged arbitration figures Jan. 18, Loney filed at $5.25 million and the Dodgers at $4.7 million -- a difference of $550,000.

This is Loney's second year of arbitration eligibility, and he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season. He is seeking a raise of more than $2 million following a season in which he hit a career-worst .267, but played in 161 games. He hit 41 doubles and 10 home runs while driving in 88 runs. Loney was hitting .309 at the All-Star break, but he hit .211 the rest of the way.

While Colletti would attend the hearing if it were to take place, assistant general manager Kim Ng has been in charge of preparing for the club's arbitration cases since she came to the Dodgers from the New York Yankees in 2002. During that time, two players have taken the Dodgers to arbitration hearings, and the club has won both of them, beating reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne in 2004 and reliever Joe Beimel in 2007.

The Dodgers were on the verge of a hearing with right fielder Andre Ethier two years ago, but minutes before it was to begin, the sides left the hearing room, went out to the hallway and agreed on a one-year deal with a base salary of $3.1 million.

The Dodgers began this winter with five arbitration-eligible players. One of them, catcher Russell Martin, was non-tendered, while another, second baseman Ryan Theriot, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Blake Hawksworth.

Pitcher Chad Billingsley then agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.275 million deal hours before numbers were to be filed. Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo (filed at $3.075 million, Dodgers countered at $2.55 million) then agreed to terms Feb. 2 on a one-year, $2.725 million deal with up to $700,000 in additional performance bonuses.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.