Dodgers could use boost from Furcal
No timetable set for shortstop's return to struggling lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre jokingly greeted injured shortstop Rafael Furcal on Monday by telling him visitors are not allowed in the clubhouse.Furcal may have seemed like a visitor after missing the Dodgers' last 24 games and not traveling with the team during its recently completed road trip to Chicago and New York to rehab his injured back.
But Furcal's return will be greatly welcomed -- whenever that may be.That's still up in the air, with Torre saying his rehab will be treated as a "very methodical process here." Furcal took some swings on Sunday and has been throwing in the field. Both Torre and Furcal agreed he would probably need a Minor League rehab assignment before returning to the Dodgers, a stint Furcal would like to be for three or four days. The Dodgers' offense has felt Furcal's absence, averaging 3.2 runs per game without him after averaging 5.4 runs per game prior to his injury. The team has struggled to a 9-15 mark after starting 18-14 with Furcal. At the time of the injury, Furcal led the Majors with 49 hits and ranked second in batting average (.366), third in on-base percentage (.448) and ninth in slugging percentage (.597) out of the leadoff spot. "There are certain guys that certainly get your attention when you lose them," Torre said. "Of course, the Yankees this year when they lost [Jorge] Posada, that type of player. The Red Sox when they lost [Jason] Varitek a few years ago, and no question [Furcal] would be one of the players here, not only the offensive side, but sitting in the middle of the diamond. You miss someone with his ability and just his presence." Making things worse, the Dodgers haven't gotten a hit from the shortstop position since May 23, with Chin-lung Hu and Luis Maza going hitless in 29 at-bats during that time. Furcal said it's tough watching the Dodgers on television because he gets nervous not being able to help the squad. He said the injury is "a little disappointing" because of how hard he worked in the offseason to prepare for the year, but said there's no pressure to return early, even with Los Angeles going 2-8 in its last 10 games. "I don't want to come in so early if I'm not healthy, because I don't want to step back," Furcal said. "When I come back, I want to play the whole year." Meanwhile, injured outfielder Andruw Jones said he's still on pace for an All-Star break return after undergoing successful right knee surgery on Tuesday. "It feels better," Jones said. "There's not much sore in there no more. The pain that I had is not much, not much soreness." Along with Furcal, Jones stayed behind during the road trip and threw for the first time on Monday, which he said felt good. He's also been working with lighter weights to build strength. Jones added he's happy the surgery showed there's nothing wrong with his patella tendon, which he feared may have been the case. The Dodgers also announced the clock has been stopped on injured pitcher Jason Schmidt's Minor League rehab stint.
The veteran's 30-day assignment had been set to expire on June 10, but will be postponed after he was hit in the calf by a grounder in the second inning during Saturday's rehab start for Class A Inland Empire.Schmidt stayed in the game and threw 65 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. "It didn't feel real good, but I was all right," Schmidt said.
Added Torre: "There's still an issue, especially when you get hit with a ball and you don't feel it until later on or the next day."Whenever Schmidt makes his next start for Inland Empire, he might be throwing to Dodgers backup catcher Gary Bennett. Torre said Bennett, disabled with plantar fasciitis, is expected to go to Inland Empire on Tuesday. Bennett is also working on his mental blocks about return throws to the mound.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.