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Dodgers Fire Hitting Coach Jeff Pentland

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Los Angeles Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland on Wednesday, another dismal sign for a once proud franchise that has fallen on hard times.

General manager Ned Colletti announced the move before Wednesday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants.

Pentland was replaced by assistant Dave Hansen for the rest of the season.

“It was a very tough decision,” Colletti said. “This is a good man. Pent has always been a good man and a very good hitting guy, but this is a reflection on how we’re hitting.”

Los Angeles had a .250 team batting average and was second only to the San Diego Padres with the fewest runs scored in the National League when Pentland was fired. The team also ranked 26th in slugging percentage (.361) and 20th in on-base percentage (.314) in the majors.

The Dodgers had lost four straight games and six in a row to the rival Giants, the longest such streak since 1969. Los Angeles began the day tied with the Padres for last in the NL West.

“It’s a pretty crappy day, honestly,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I know how much (Pentland) worked and how much he cared about these guys. It’s a pretty disappointing day.

“I don’t care how you slice it, guys gotta do their thing, guys gotta hit,” he added. “You can help a guy, but you can only help them to a point.”

There mood was somber in the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Pentland was in his fourth season with the Dodgers and first as the club’s primary hitting coach, and he was generally respected by players. Most understood why the decision was made but felt for Pentland.

“He was a good hitting coach,” All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp said. “I just feel bad that he lost his job on our behalf.”

The struggles on the field are overshadowed only by those off it.

The bitter divorce proceedings between team owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife, Jamie, started a downward spiral that is showing no end. Major League Baseball assumed control of the club’s day-to-day operations in mid-April and McCourt recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

McCourt took that Chapter 11 action after Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a proposed broadcast rights deal that McCourt believes would’ve alleviated worries about covering payroll expenses every two weeks. Lawyers for both sides were in a Delaware courtroom Wednesday wrangling over the franchise’s future.

The baseball operations staff and players have tried to keep the focus on the field, even if that hasn’t been easy lately.

Colletti started to contemplate replacing Pentland before last week’s All-Star break but held off hoping that the time off would help the team snap out of its summer-long funk. No such luck.

Hansen, who was already assisting Pentland as hitting coach, played 15 seasons in the majors — 11 with the Dodgers. He was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league hitting coordinator the last three seasons until joining Mattingly’s staff this year.

Hansen said his promotion was bittersweet because he had great respect for Pentland.

“That guy knows a lot,” Hansen said. “It was not working out. That does not discredit his knowledge of the game.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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