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Kent wants to wipe out 2002

September 20, 2008|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

He has been in the majors for 17 seasons, played for six teams, has the most career home runs (350) for a second baseman, been to the postseason six times and reached the World Series once.

Yet Jeff Kent has never won a World Series championship.

He is not known for opening up to the media, expressing a lack of faith in how his words will be interpreted. But Kent was candid before Friday's game about the hurt he still feels six years after his San Francisco Giants lost the final two games of the 2002 World Series to the Angels, his best opportunity to earn a ring disappearing in a sea of red.

"That's something that will eat at me forever," he admitted. "I'm bitter."

It was especially painful because Kent was coming off one of the highlights of his career. He hit two home runs in Game 5 to give the Giants what appeared to be a commanding lead in the series.

"At that moment," Kent said, "me and my teammates thought we were on top of the clouds. But the moment was taken away by a better team. The Giants had never won a World Series [in San Francisco]. That was something we were very proud of accomplishing up to that point and we thought we could handle it for the next two games. I'll never forget that."

Kent, 40, knows that this is probably his last chance to finally grab that elusive ring. And he could do it against the Angels, the team that denied him. And so, despite having undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just 2 1/2 weeks ago, he pushes himself to come back and carve a spot on the postseason roster.

"I am able to hit," Kent said, "but I still haven't run to first base yet."

How likely is it that Kent will come back?

"If I'm successful, we'll say I was able to [do it]," he said. "If not, we'll go to hindsight. It's what we do best. Second-guess ourselves."

His manager, Joe Torre, isn't ready to make a decision on Kent.

"It depends on what his body is going to let him do," Torre said. "The desire is there, but we have to talk about reality at this point. He's frustrated he hasn't been able to get to the next level. He's expected miracles to happen in 2 1/2 weeks. We have to figure out what kind of flexibility he has with the knee."

Even if the flexibility is limited, even if Kent's ability to run is hampered, even if he can't perform in the field, he might still be able to limp up to the plate and produce a memorable postseason moment. It wouldn't be the first time in Dodgers history.

Kent allowed himself a smile at the thought.

"There's only one Kirk Gibson," he said, "and I'll leave that phenomenal highlight to him."

A partner in frustration

Kent is not alone in watching the days of the season dwindle to a few from the vantage point of the trainer's room.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is recovering from back surgery and hasn't played since May, continues to struggle.

"One day, I feel better," he said, "and the next day I don't. I never know from one day to the next. At this point, I don't feel like I can help the team."

Furcal said the pain in his back is gone, but that he now has irritation in the upper area of his left leg.

"I want to be ready," he said, "but there is nothing I can do with my body."

Short hops

An MRI on the tender left elbow of left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo showed no structural damage. . . . Right-hander Brad Penny had a cortisone shot in his sore right shoulder, but he doesn't know if he'll pitch again this season.


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