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Ready to stand up

After Dodgers complete sweep of Reds with 7-4 win, they turn focus to playing three 'tough' AL teams at home.

June 20, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

CINCINNATI -- The most optimistic forecasts predict that shortstop Rafael Furcal is about a month away from being back in the Dodgers' lineup. Pitchers Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda are also on the disabled list.

But when looking ahead to a visit from the Cleveland Indians tonight that marks the start of a nine-game homestand, the words spoken in the manager's office and in the clubhouse expressed curiosity rather than dread.

Of the stretch of games that also includes three-game sets against the Chicago White Sox and Angels, Manager Joe Torre said, "I want to see where we stand."

Uncertainty lingered in the wake of the Dodgers' three-game sweep over the Cincinnati Reds, which was sealed with a 7-4 victory Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

Over the last two games of the series, the Dodgers displayed the kind of offensive consistency that evaded them for the last month. They scored 13 runs in their last two games but did so without scoring more than two runs in any inning. Torre claimed the qualities of the team's at-bats improved.

"I think it's a great start," first baseman James Loney said.

And in the next 10 days, Torre said, "We're going to see if we can sustain this."

And it will need to be done against teams Torre called "tough" -- in other words, not the Reds, who sit in last place in the National League Central.

Furcal is still out because of a bulging disk in his lower back. "Whenever you lose a guy like Raffy, he's hard to replace," catcher Russell Martin said.

Limited to playing catch, Furcal is spending this time strengthening his core, which, in theory, will relieve pressure from his spine and prevent the problem from arising again. Torre and Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, admitted that Furcal won't be back before the All-Star break.

Asked if the Dodgers' lineup had become any more accustomed to playing without Furcal, outfielder Matt Kemp replied, "Not really. With him in the lineup, it makes it easier. He gets on base and you get more fastballs. He turns the game alive."

Until he was passed on Thursday by Loney and Martin, Furcal was the team leader in runs, even though he last played May 5.

The Dodgers began Thursday with poor power numbers, ranking 29th in the majors with 45 home runs and 28th in doubles with 114. The absence of the power leadoff hitter certainly didn't help, as Furcal was fourth in the majors with 12 doubles when he was hurt.

Because of the lack of pop in the lineup, Torre said that he was seriously considering playing corner infielder Andy LaRoche at second base over the more defensively capable Luis Maza on days Jeff Kent rests.

"You don't want to drop off the offense," Torre said.

But facing mediocre pitching on Thursday -- Reds starter Aaron Harang fell to 3-10 and increased his earned-run average to 4.33 -- the Dodgers collected six extra base hits, five doubles and a fourth-inning solo home run by Kemp.

"All of us had some pretty good at-bats," Kemp said. "I think we were relaxed a little bit more and let the game come to us."

That was also the way Torre described a team that scored its first run in the first inning when a double by Martin drove in Kent, who doubled in the previous at-bat.

Kemp's home run in the fourth was part of a two-run inning that put the Dodgers ahead, 3-0. An inning later, Kemp doubled to drive in two runs and increase the margin to 5-0.

Loney, who was three for four to raise his average this month to .421, drove in Blake DeWitt on a single in the sixth.

The Reds scored four runs in the seventh to close to within 6-4, but the Dodgers answered in the ninth, with Loney scoring on a single by Andre Ethier.

Eric Stults threw six solid innings, preventing further damage to an already dented rotation.

Because Chan Ho Park wasn't forced to pitch, he remained on track to start Saturday in place of Kuroda. And instead of calling up a starter from the minor leagues to pitch on Saturday, the Dodgers made plans to recall reliever Ramon Troncoso.

Torre called the temporary losses of Kuroda and Penny "manageable."

Kuroda figures to miss only one start and Park has looked like more than a capable replacement.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Dodgers (black and) blue

Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who has tendinitis and an impingement in his right shoulder, will be the latest Dodger to go on the disabled list.

June 17

Brad Penny: Put on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 15, because of right shoulder tendinitis.

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May 25

Nomar Garciaparra: Transferred from the 15-day to 60-day.

Andruw Jones: Put on the 15-day with torn cartilage in right knee.

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May 20

Jason Schmidt: Transferred to the 60-day.

Gary Bennett: Put on 15-day with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

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May 13

Rafael Furcal: Put on the 15-day, retroactive to May 6, because of a strained lower back.

Tony Abreu: Transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day.

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May 8

Esteban Loaiza: Put on the 15-day, retroactive to May 4, because of tightness and spasms in his right shoulder.

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May 3

Andy LaRoche: Reinstated from the disabled list.

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April 26

Nomar Garciaparra: Put on the 15-day because of a strained left calf.

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March 31

Tony Abreu: Put on the 15-day because of groin, hip problems.

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March 30

Jason Schmidt: Put on the 15-day because of a shoulder injury.

Andy LaRoche: Put on the 15-day because of torn thumb ligaments.

Nomar Garciaparra: Put on the 15-day.

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Source: Dodgers

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Los Angeles Times

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