DALLAS — The question came perhaps as Rafael Furcal knew it would, stuck between his past life with the Atlanta Braves and his new life with the Dodgers, raised after he had lifted the No. 15 white jersey to his chest.
What about the DUIs?
The new Dodger shortstop had two driving-under-the-influence incidents, both in Atlanta, the second of which ended in jail time about a year ago. He paused, and the smile that accompanied a news conference otherwise reserved to describe his skill as a defender and leadoff hitter drifted off.
"I put everything away," Furcal said. "It's time to play baseball. I don't even think about that.
"I think I'm a new man and I'll try to do the best for me and my family."
Before the Dodgers lured Furcal from the Braves, stole him from the Chicago Cubs, with a three-year, $39-million offer, General Manager Ned Colletti said he'd become convinced Furcal, 28, would not be a behavioral liability.
"We looked into it," he said. "We're completely satisfied.... He made amends with his teammates and made amends with the [Brave] organization. It's in his past.
"What you hear from the players who played next to him is what a great teammate he is and how hard he played. We've all grown up at some point in time. Most of us."
While Cesar Izturis mends his elbow in Venezuela, Furcal becomes the Dodger shortstop. He is durable and defensively sound and was third in the National League in stolen bases. He is not the perfect leadoff hitter (.348 on-base percentage), but neither was Izturis.
For several years, Furcal had waited for a long-term contract from the Braves. When it did not come, he narrowed his destination choices to the Cubs and the Dodgers, then took the $39 million.
Colletti called him "one of the most exciting players in the game."
Furcal said he'd show up and work hard, leaving behind a perennial playoff team for one that has a single postseason win since 1988.
"I am coming to the Dodgers to make something happen every year too," he said.
While Dodger officials denied the best rumor of the day -- Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and Derek Lowe and J.D. Drew jettisoned in a three-way trade with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies -- the club is showing signs it will spend to upgrade its major league roster.
Colletti said he would have signed Furcal even if Brian Giles had accepted his three-year, $34.5-million offer last week. And on Wednesday the Dodgers offered salary arbitration to free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver, which could cost the team another $12 million or so, though it probably won't.
Weaver, who won 27 games and pitched 444 innings in two seasons with the Dodgers and earned $9.4 million last season, will not agree to arbitration, according to his agent.
"I don't really think that's within the framework of our plans," Scott Boras said. "Jeff Weaver has a very active market."
Under the terms of collective bargaining, Weaver could accept arbitration and return to the club in 2006 or decline the offer and still have a month to negotiate a contract with the Dodgers.
Had the Dodgers failed to offer arbitration, they would have lost the rights to negotiate with Weaver until May 1.
Former Dodger general manager Dan Evans interviewed Tuesday for the Red Sox general manager opening. The Red Sox have also interviewed Jim Beattie, Jim Bowden and Dave Wilder.... The Dodgers signed utility man Olmedo Saenz to a two-year, $2-million contract.... Dodger scout Carl Loewenstine, a veteran of 31 professional seasons, the last 26 with the Dodgers, was named scout of the year.... Tony Cloninger and Dan Warthen are among those being considered as Grady Little's pitching coach.... Colletti said he has had several recent conversations with closer Eric Gagne, who is throwing regularly and expects to be ready by spring training. Gagne had season-ending elbow surgery in June.... Pitcher Elmer Dessens and catcher Paul Bako were not offered arbitration.