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02/22/07 10:11 AM ET

Furcal still No. 1

Speedy shortstop remains Dodgers' leadoff man

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Rafael Furcal will retain his job as the Dodgers' leadoff hitter despite the acquisition of Juan Pierre, manager Grady Little announced on Thursday morning.

"We'll open with Furcal leading off and Pierre second," said Little. "We have two qualified leadoff hitters, and that's a luxury a lot of clubs don't have. We'll get something started in every game and every inning they come up. If one happens to make an out, we'll still have a chance for a lot of action in that inning."

Both players have been primarily leadoff hitters throughout their careers. Furcal hit .300 with 113 runs scored and 37 stolen bases last season, his first after signing a three-year, $39 million contract with the Dodgers. Pierre, who signed a five-year, $44 million contract in December, hit .292 with 87 runs scored and 58 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter for the last-place Chicago Cubs last year.

Little conceded he went back and forth over the decision, that "a ton" of factors went into it and he could change his mind if it isn't working out. He did not give a specific reason, however, for the final choice.

He said he would not ask Pierre to take on a more patient approach, as is usually the custom for a No. 2 hitter.

"We want him to handle the game as if he's a leadoff hitter," Little said of Pierre. "I don't want him to get out of character."

Little said his top two will likely be followed by Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez. The final three spots leading up to the pitcher are likely to be filled by Russell Martin, Wilson Betemit and Andre Ethier, but Little would not commit to that.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.