Kent, Furcal get trial starts for Dodgers
Torre faces tough decisions on postseason roster
SAN FRANCISCO -- Clinching on Thursday gives the Dodgers three otherwise meaningless weekend games against the Giants to play those who have been healing and heal those who have been playing.
Manager Joe Torre on Friday night started Rafael Furcal at shortstop and allowed Jeff Kent to talk his way into the lineup at second base. Both players are auditioning for postseason roster spots after recovering from surgery, Furcal to his back and Kent to his knee.
Neither is being considered for a starting role and either might have to wait until a second round, should the Dodgers get that far.
But Torre indicated the odds are good that both will be on the roster for Wednesday's Game 1, wherever it is played.
"He said he felt ready to go and the more at-bats the better off he'll be," Torre said of Kent. "The only thing I told him [is that] my plans for him are to use him off the bench as a pinch-hitter. That's an area we've been a little inconsistent. It's all on the assumption he's healthy enough to play. That's my plan right now."
Dodgers pinch-hitters this year are 51-for-225 (.227) with one homer. Kent is 2-for-5 pinch-hitting this year. Since returning, he's lined two singles in three at-bats.
"He's remarkable, isn't he?" asked Torre. "He didn't play all spring, then he hits a home run Opening Day. And we were thinking of disabling him. His swing is so uncomplicated and short that timing isn't as important as someone with a longer stroke."
With Furcal, Torre has been downplaying his future role because he's been out for 4 1/2 months.
"He's been out a long time, but I still think he'll be a benefit. We just have to see how he holds up the next few days," Torre said of Furcal. "My guess is he'll be on the roster. We have to find out what we can expect."
Adding Kent and Furcal probably means that two players who contributed to the stretch run will be left off the roster. If Kent is a pinch-hitter, pinch-hitters Delwyn Young or Mark Sweeney could be in jeopardy. With Kent active but not a candidate for late-inning defense, a versatile utility man like Pablo Ozuna might sneak onto the roster.
Ozuna was originally in Friday night's lineup at second base until the change to Kent, but Torre said he wants to see more of Ozuna at second base. He also said Ozuna will play the outfield Saturday. Needing extra position players might leave the Dodgers with 10 pitchers, although that is a dicey proposition with the uncertain health of relievers Takashi Saito and Hong-Chih Kuo.
Torre said he won't allow sentiment to dictate his roster decisions.
"It's tough being sentimental when it comes down to this," he said. "Not when it's a five-game or seven-game postseason series. I admit I like to think I'm loyal to my players, but when it comes to something as immediate as a short series, I have to be loyal to the 25."
Getting the night off Friday was catcher Russell Martin for the second consecutive game (replaced by Danny Ardoin), third baseman Casey Blake, center fielder Matt Kemp and shortstop Angel Berroa. Blake DeWitt moved from second to third and Juan Pierre started in center.
Torre said Manny Ramirez will play Saturday and rest Sunday, his first day off since joining the club.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.