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Furcal where he wants to be

October 05, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Rafael Furcal missed 125 games and his preparation for the playoffs consisted of 10 plate appearances in the final week of the regular season.

Saturday, he was the Dodgers' starting shortstop for the third consecutive time this postseason.

He said his surgically repaired back is fine. So is the hamstring that tightened up on him last month. As for the pressure of being thrust into the team's starting lineup in the playoffs after not playing for almost five months, Furcal isn't feeling it.

"Pressure?" Furcal said. "This is my eighth time in the postseason. I don't feel pressure."

He certainly looked comfortable in the Dodgers' two wins in Chicago, where he was three for nine with two runs scored, three runs batted in and two walks.

If anything, Furcal said that he felt unnatural this time last year, when he watched the playoffs from home for the first time in his career.

Furcal has made his presence heard in the locker room in recent weeks, playfully screaming "Media out!" when the clubhouse becomes off-limits to reporters, as was his custom early this season.

"He's having a lot of fun," Manager Joe Torre said.

He has also added an extra dimension to the Dodgers' lineup that was forced to use Matt Kemp and Russell Martin in the leadoff spot in recent months.

"He's your prototypical leadoff hitter," pitcher Derek Lowe said. "I remember when I was in Boston, Johnny Damon, when he led off and got on base, how many times we won. For us, Raffy's that guy."

Pierre not sulking

The less Juan Pierre played, the more time he seemed to spend with opposing players before the game.

The view from the outside was that Pierre was sulking -- a view that Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp say is flat-out wrong.

Ethier and Kemp said that Pierre continues to be the mentor to them that he was last year.

"He still gives us that advice," Ethier said. "After a bad at-bat, he comes up to you and tries to correct it.

"I know he wants to be out there, but he still wants the best for me and Matt. It's nice to see. He puts his personal feeling aside when he could cop an attitude and develop animosity toward us."

Kemp said that's Juan being Juan.

"That's how Juan is," Kemp said. "He's a great teammate. He's a great friend of mine."

Torre wins again

Torre was already smiling when he welcomed reporters into his office Saturday afternoon. The Dodgers were more than three hours away from facing the Cubs, but Torre was already a winner.

Vineyard Haven, a 2-year-old colt co-owned by Torre, won the Grade I, $400,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

"Hopefully, it's a good sign," Torre said.

Torre purchased the horse in June with trainer Bobby Frankel and Frankel's friend Louis Lazzinnaro.

Short hops

Don Newcombe and Duke Snider threw out the ceremonial first pitches. . . . Hong-Chih Kuo threw on flat ground again. . . . Chin-lung Hu and Jason Repko, who were sent to Arizona to prepare for potential roles in the NL championship series, have played four games each in the instructional league. . . . Ethan Martin, the Dodgers' first-round pick who underwent knee surgery in August, has pitched twice in Arizona, according to farm director DeJon Watson.


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