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Dodgers find center fielder in veteran Lofton

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,'' Dodgers
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.

He 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 trading 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.''