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03/28/07 8:42 PM ET

Notes: No rush whatsoever for Furcal

Dodgers want shortstop's ankle to fully heal before he returns

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Although the update on Rafael Furcal's sprained ankle indicates continued improvement, the Dodgers shortstop is likely to open the season on the disabled list, but retroactively, so he could miss as few as five games.

Furcal is now running, throwing and hitting off a tee, but manager Grady Little is concerned about the lingering effects such an injury could have if Furcal rushes back.

"We have to use common sense," Little said before the team bussed to Tampa for its flight home to Los Angeles. "If he starts with any limp, how long will he be at only 80 percent? It could prolong that time. If it takes four or five days into the season to get him 100 percent, you have to consider if it's worth that. I think it will be. Otherwise, you run the risk of having him at 80 percent for three weeks. Of course, we'll have to put him in a cage."

That last comment is a reference to the fact that Furcal will say he's ready to play, ready or not.

From the tryout taking place this week, choices to replace Furcal in the lineup are down to Wilson Valdez and Tony Abreu. Valdez started at shortstop Wednesday, his third start there since Furcal was injured. Abreu has started twice at shortstop since the injury. Ramon Martinez, on the team as a utility infielder, is not considered the answer at shortstop for any length of time. Ironically, he suffered a slight ankle sprain in Wednesday's game, but said it was very minor.

Valdez is on the 40-man roster but is out of options. Abreu is not on the 40-man roster. One possible scenario is to keep Valdez active until Furcal returns, then attempt to get Valdez through waivers and keep him in the organization. A team is more likely to claim him before rosters are set for Opening Day.

Another option would be to add Abreu, who has emerged as the second baseman of the future, but that would mean a higher risk of losing Valdez, as well as necessitating clearing a roster spot for Abreu.

The Dodgers currently have 39 players on their Major League roster. If non-roster outfielder Larry Bigbie and non-roster pitcher Rudy Seanez are added, the one needed spot would come by placing injured outfielder Jason Repko on the 60-day disabled list, which exempts him from counting against the 40-man limit.

Adding Abreu would mean another player would need to come off the roster, unless reliever Chin-hui Tsao (already on the 40-man roster) is substituted for Seanez, who has said he will exercise an escape clause rather than go to the Minor Leagues. Little said Tsao is still in the running for the final bullpen spot because Tsao throws 95 mph and has had an impressive spring (2.53 ERA compared to Seanez's 1.74).

With Valdez batting ninth, Little moved Russell Martin to the second spot and batted Juan Pierre leadoff for the second consecutive game.

Injury updates: Little said he expects Martinez and Pierre to be available Thursday night. Martinez turned his ankle stepping on the corner of second base while taking a throw from Valdez. Pierre fouled a ball off his right shin in the first inning and exited the game in the third for treatment.

Lowe ready: Dodgers starter Derek Lowe said he's ready for the season after pitching five innings against Detroit, proving he's in midseason form despite serving up a three-run homer to Gary Sheffield, who has hit .471 off him in his career.

Lowe said he does remember a time when he handled Sheffield effectively.

"PlayStation," he said.

"I can't wait [for Monday's opener]," Lowe continued. "I feel that everything I tried to do here has gotten better. I look forward to Milwaukee. I just hope in the next three games, nothing crazy happens with injuries."

Wills relates to Loney: With James Loney possibly facing a return to Triple-A after batting .380 last year, the trip to Lakeland reminded Maury Wills of getting cut in 1959 by the Tigers after he was sold conditionally for $30,000 by the Dodgers, who didn't think he could become a Major Leaguer.

Wills was sent back to the Dodgers' Minor League camp and back to Triple-A for his eighth Minor League season.

"After that rejection, the key was that when I went down, I had great respect for my manager in Spokane, Bobby Bragan, and I went down with a good frame of mind and didn't get dejected," said Wills. "That was the key, because I didn't sulk. I hit .313, and when Bob Lillis slumped and Don Zimmer broke a toe and they needed a shortstop, I was ready.

"[Loney] knows he deserves to be here on his performance, but he's caught up in a numbers game. You can't have a prospect like that sitting on the bench. That's what happened to Willie Crawford and Joe Moeller and they never developed the way they could have."

Mays replaces Sele: Non-roster pitcher Joe Mays, a former 17-game winner who has a May 15 escape clause, accepted his role as the sixth starter, meaning he opens the season at Triple-A.

"I'll go down and stay sharp and be prepared," he said. "The place I want to be is up here. I feel I belong up here. My arm feels good and I feel good about myself again, not like the last few years, coming off elbow surgery. I'm ready to be the Major League pitcher I was in the past."

Repko surgery a success: Repko's Wednesday surgery to reattach his hamstring tendons went well, according to the club. Repko said he will be on crutches for two months and will spend the time at home in Washington, then rehab with the club.

Coming up: The Dodgers play coast-to-coast Thursday with split-squad games against the Angels at 7:05 p.m. PT in Los Angeles and the Mets at 10:05 a.m. PT in Vero Beach. Randy Wolf opposes Hector Carrasco and the Angels, while Mays opposes John Maine and the Mets.

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