Painful day for Dodgers Furcal, Repko
Shortstop injures ankle in collision; outfielder later hurts leg
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Dodgers Rafael Furcal and Jason Repko, expected to be on the club Opening Day, were on crutches Thursday.
Furcal suffered a moderate sprain of his left ankle on the opening play of an eventual 8-0 loss to Baltimore. He was sprinting out from shortstop to catch Corey Patterson's soft liner when oncoming center fielder Jason Repko slid to avoid contact, Repko's foot pinning Furcal's left foot as Furcal was preparing to leap over his teammate.
Furcal went down in pain and eventually was loaded onto a cart and driven off the field, then taken to a hospital for X-rays, which were negative.
"We're thankful it wasn't more serious than what it was," manager Grady Little said of Furcal.
Repko avoided injury on that play but joined Furcal on crutches only two innings later when he suffered a high strain of his left hamstring running down a ball in the gap. It was Repko's first start since suffering a right groin strain Mar. 10.
Those two joined pitchers Brad Penny and Hong-Chih Kuo (stiff shoulders for both) in a 24-hour injury siege at Dodgertown.
The preliminary prognosis was worse for Repko than Furcal. The Dodgers' fourth outfielder is expected to miss several weeks, which means he won't make the Opening Day roster, opening up a spot for probably Wilson Valdez (who is out of options), or possibly Larry Bigbie or James Loney.
Valdez's importance is amplified because he can play both Furcal's position and center field, where Repko's speed and ball-chasing ability set him apart as an extra outfielder. Although utility infielder Ramon Martinez can play some shortstop, he has played only 20 innings there this spring.
Valdez has played 54 innings, Chin-lung Hu 41, Ivan DeJesus 38 and Tony Abreu 20. Abreu, injured Saturday, is expected to return to action Friday. Hu and Abreu have been sent to Minor League camp, but are still under control and could be added to the 25-man roster. DeJesus, 19, has never played above low Class A.
"We're comfortable with the personnel we have," said Little. "They're not Rafael Furcal, but we do have some options in most areas."
Furcal, who sprained the same ankle in 2002 Spring Training with Atlanta, is expected to miss a week, although a more reliable guesstimate will come after a few days when the swelling subsides. Because Furcal could be placed on the disabled list retroactively, management might not make a decision on him until after the season starts.
"When it happened, I thought I broke my ankle," said Furcal, who said he missed four or five days in 2002.
The swelling was noticeable, but he said it had reduced significantly in the 2 1/2 hours that had passed since the incident. Asked if he thought he would make Opening Day, he said: "I think so. I hope so."
Furcal wrote off the incident to the dangers of playing the game, blaming nobody, even though it resulted from hustle during an exhibition game.
"He tried to do his job," he said of Repko. "It's baseball. It's not his fault; it's not my fault."
By the time Repko spoke to reporters, he looked like he had emerged from a mixed martial arts bout. He was leaning on crutches, his left arm above and below the elbow scraped badly from sliding on the center-field warning track when he attempted to catch Ramon Hernandez's double as his hamstring blew.
"I had my right foot planted on the grass and the left foot was on the track, and it gave way," he explained.
Repko had a similar hamstring pull in his first training camp in 2000 and it wiped out all but eight games of that season. His promising career has been sidetracked by injuries ever since, including missing 2 1/2 months last year with a high ankle sprain and 11 days this spring with the groin strain. He will likely have an MRI Friday.
As for the play on which Furcal was injured, Repko said the only contact he felt was on his forearm, not on his foot.
"When I saw where he was, I tried to get low and get my body weight down so he could step over or jump over me," said Repko. "We were both running hard. The next inning and a half, it kind of ate at me. I was thinking how I could have avoided it."
The game started with a stiff breeze blowing out to right-center, into which Patterson lifted his Texas Leaguer. Furcal got a good jump, but the wind carried the ball away from Furcal. He did not ease up on it the way he did in Viera on Monday to avoid a collision with left fielder Luis Gonzalez on a pop to shallow left. Furcal kept going after the ball while Repko, who plays an aggressive outfield, was charging hard.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.