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Furcal's ankle sprain a concern

SPRING REPORT | BALTIMORE 8, DODGERS 0

March 23, 2007|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, FLA. — Another day, another disaster for the Dodgers.

Make that multiple disasters.

They lost shortstop Rafael Furcal and outfielder Jason Repko to injuries during Thursday's 8-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Holman Stadium, the Dodgers' fifth consecutive one-sided defeat.

They have been outscored, 41-3, in the losses. And after a spring marked by an absence of injuries, they are losing players as well.

The diagnosis was worse for Repko than for Furcal, whose X-rays showed a moderate ankle sprain that might keep him from playing opening day but shouldn't keep him out too long.

Repko, playing defense for the first time in 11 days because he was recovering from a groin injury, strained his left hamstring in the third inning diving for Ramon Hernandez's double in the right-center field gap. He will have an MRI exam in the next two days.

"It's a high strain, which is notorious for slow recoveries," trainer Stan Conte said. Repko's recovery "will probably be measured in weeks."

Repko also had a hand in Furcal's injury, which occurred on Corey Patterson's blooper to short center field to begin the game. Repko raced in and slid into Furcal's ankle. Furcal writhed in pain and was taken from the field on a cart.

Conte said Furcal would be out "longer than a week," but couldn't be more specific until swelling subsides. The ankle ballooned immediately after the collision and after the game the swelling had subsided to about the size of a baseball.

Furcal sprained the same ankle in 2002, which Conte said could help his recovery because scar tissue could break down more quickly.

Asked if he would be ready by opening day, Furcal said, "Yeah, I think so. I can play at 80% if I have to."

If he isn't ready, the chances of utility infielder Wilson Valdez making the team are significantly increased. The Dodgers don't have anybody besides Furcal who could step in and play shortstop for a considerable length of time.

Chin-lung Hu is expected to be the shortstop in triple A, but he isn't considered ready for the big leagues. Neither utility infielder Ramon Martinez nor Valdez would be a satisfactory replacement for long.

"We're confident with the personnel we've got," Manager Grady Little said. "They aren't Rafael Furcal, but we do have some options."

Replacing Repko is more easily done. Larry Bigbie has had an excellent spring and the Dodgers have been scratching their heads trying to find a way to keep him around.

Taking the fifth

Will a pitcher who wants to be the No. 5 starter please step up?

Brett Tomko, the leading candidate, took a major step backward, giving up six runs in four innings, and dark horse candidate Joe Mays surrendered two runs in three innings.

"We're on the lookout for someone to separate from the pack," Little said. "But the pack is all moving together."

Mark Hendrickson gave up four runs in his last start and Hong-Chih Kuo, who has abandoned the windup he brought to spring training, was ineffective in his last two starts. Kuo complained of shoulder soreness Thursday and is scheduled for an MRI exam.

Home sounds good too

Veteran reliever Rudy Seanez has pitched well enough to make the opening-day roster, but finding a spot for him could be difficult because the Dodgers plan to keep only 11 pitchers.

About the only person it doesn't seem to bother is Seanez.

"I look at this way," he said. "If they send me home, at least I can say I did all right. If I'd done [poorly], maybe I'd have a different attitude."

And home to his wife and two daughters in El Centro is where he would head if the Dodgers tried to send him to triple A.

"I'm set," he said. "There's no reason to be stressed at all. I gain either way."

Seanez hasn't allowed a run in six innings, giving up two hits, one walk and striking out six.

He knows that his fate probably will be determined one or two days before the start of the season.

"They have the luxury of letting me know when they are ready," he said.

MLB mandate

The Dodgers spent part of the morning watching a video mandated by Major League Baseball on the dangers and consequences of steroid use.... Brad Penny, who missed his last start because of a sore shoulder, will pitch a bullpen session today and is scheduled to start Monday.... Tony Abreu, who is expected to be the second baseman at triple-A Las Vegas, has made a quick recovery from a bruised left shoulder and is ready to play.... Players union chief Donald Fehr is scheduled to make his annual visit to speak to Dodgers players Saturday.

steve.henson@latimes.com

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