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'Happy' Furcal back at shortstop

October 01, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Rafael Furcal made it back.

Furcal will be starting at shortstop and batting first when the Dodgers open their National League division series against the Chicago Cubs today at Wrigley Field, Manager Joe Torre said.

Behind Furcal, in order, will be catcher Russell Martin, left fielder Manny Ramirez, right fielder Andre Ethier, first baseman James Loney, center fielder Matt Kemp, second baseman Blake DeWitt, third baseman Casey Blake and starter Derek Lowe.

Out for 4 1/2 months because of a bulging disk that ultimately required surgery, Furcal played four games in the final week of the regular season. He played into the seventh inning and was two for four in San Francisco on Saturday. That was all Torre had to see.

"I'm happy, excited," Furcal said. "I'm thankful that he has confidence in me."

Furcal says that his back is pain-free and that he thinks he is ready to play nine innings.

"I wanted to play nine innings Saturday night," he said.

Furcal said he felt more comfortable at the plate in his last game in San Francisco.

"I tried to get deep in the count," he said. "The confidence is there when you see more pitches."

However, Furcal said that because he wasn't able to run for most of his rehabilitation, he doesn't feel as fast as he usually feels on the basepaths.

Maddux makes the cut

Greg Maddux, who was 2-4 with a 5.09 earned-run average in his seven starts with the Dodgers, was named to the 25-man playoff roster as a reliever. The tentative roster included six reserve position players -- Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Danny Ardoin, Angel Berroa, Pablo Ozuna -- and 11 pitchers -- Lowe, Maddux, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Joe Beimel, Cory Wade, Jonathan Broxton, Takashi Saito, Chan-Ho Park and Ramon Troncoso.

Noteworthy omissions included right-hander Scott Proctor and pinch-hitters Mark Sweeney and Delwyn Young.

Maddux, 42, who was acquired in a waiver deal in August, said he didn't mind not starting.

"I'm glad they traded for me," he said. "It's a lot better sitting in Chicago doing a crossword puzzle in the locker room than it is to be sitting in Vegas doing nothing."

Maddux has made only two relief appearances in the last 20 years, and both of them were in the playoffs pitching for Atlanta. He picked up a save in Game 5 of the 1998 NLCS in San Diego. The next year, he entered Game 3 of the NLDS in Houston in the seventh inning. He inherited a runner on second, allowed him to steal, issued a walk and was taken out of the game.

"I got looser a lot quicker than I thought I would," he said.

Mannywood in Wrigleyville

Ramirez was in a playful mood, first telling reporters that he wouldn't talk, only to turn around minutes later to shout, "No, I'm kidding! Let's go!"

Crowded by a dozen or so reporters in the corner of the cramped visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field, Ramirez said, "This is like a typical day in Boston. I'm ready."

Asked how he thought the fans in the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field would treat him, Ramirez paused for a moment and said, "Why, what are they going to do to me?"

Ramirez laughed.

Saito could close; Broxton doesn't mind

Torre said Saito could close tonight if there is a save situation, adding that one of the reasons he didn't want to name a closer is that he was uncertain whether Saito can withstand the rigors of pitching on consecutive days.

Saito, who missed two months because of a sprained ligament in his elbow, picked up a save on Saturday, his first since July 9.

Saito's replacement, Broxton, said he didn't see Torre's eagerness to push Saito back into the closing role as a sign he lacked confidence in him.

"If he didn't trust me, he wouldn't keep running me out there," Broxton said.

Broxton said he didn't mind setting up, adding that Saito probably would say the same.

"It's up to Joe," Broxton said. "I have no say in it. I like closing, I'll tell you that. But it's Joe's call."

Short hops

Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo underwent a heart examination in an effort to determine why his fingers became numb and turned bright red while warming up Saturday. The test was negative for blood clots. . . . The Dodgers' August waiver deal for Maddux was completed, as the San Diego Padres received 19-year-old left-hander Michael Watt and 20-year-old right-hander Eduardo Perez. Watt was the Dodgers' second-round pick in the 2007 draft.


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