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DODGERS FYI

Rafael Furcal says he feels like his old self again

He says it wasn't Manny Ramirez's return or his place in the batting order that made him start hitting again, but rather him getting his rhythm back after long layoff last season.

July 09, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

NEW YORK — Rafael Furcal looks like a different hitter these days. Furcal says he feels different too.

He feels like, well . . .

"I feel like Rafael Furcal," he said.

The 31-year-old shortstop, who re-signed with the Dodgers for three years at $30 million over the winter, hit .237 through June. He acknowledged he was frustrated.

Then something happened.

His pinch-hit run-scoring single July 1 lifted the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory over Colorado.

Furcal's friend, Manny Ramirez, came back from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. And with Manager Joe Torre wanting the lineup to look the way before Ramirez went into exile, Furcal was put back at the top of the lineup.

He continued to hit.

In the five games he has batted leadoff this month, Furcal is 11 for 25, raising his season average to .254. He was two for four with a walk and two runs batted in Wednesday.

Furcal said it wasn't Ramirez's return or his place in the batting order that made him start hitting again.

"It's about time for me to get started," he said. "The season is already three months old. I've felt better these last few days."

He said he lost his rhythm during the 4 1/2 months he missed last season because of back problems. Playing 70-plus games and working with hitting coach Don Mattingly to improve his balance helped him regain it.

"I'm concentrating more on making contact and on my mechanics," he said. "I'm having better at-bats. I'm making better contact. I'm hitting better pitches."

Belisario's elbow: OK

Fearing that Ronald Belisario had damaged the ligament in his elbow that he had surgically repaired in 2005, the Dodgers sent the hard-throwing setup man back to Los Angeles on Tuesday to undergo an MRI exam.

The test relieved the Dodgers of their fears, as it revealed no structural damage to his elbow and only some inflammation of the tendon and soft tissue.

Belisario was told to rest for a week. He will be eligible to come off the disabled list July 20.

Vargas back

For Claudio Vargas, the scoreless inning he pitched Tuesday night marked his first major-league appearance in more than a year.

The last time he pitched in the big leagues was on June 24, 2008 -- for the Mets. He was designated for assignment the next day, pitched in the minors, hurt his elbow and re-injured it this spring while in camp with the Dodgers.

Vargas talked about his long road back, in particular the time he spent in extended spring training.

"The time there was extremely difficult," Vargas said. "When you're hurt like that, no one pays attention to you."

Vargas said the turning point in his recovery was when he received the same cutting-edge treatment then-Dodgers closer Takashi Saito received last year to salvage his season: an injection of platelet-rich plasma into the ailing part of the elbow.

Like Saito last year, Vargas had blood drawn and spun to isolate the platelets, which clot and promote healing. The platelets, 10 times more concentrated than in normal blood, were injected into the site of the injury. Saito was the first baseball player known to receive the treatment.

"They told me it worked for him and that his elbow was in worse shape than mine," Vargas said.

Short hops

As expected, Cory Wade was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque to replace Belisario on the active roster. . . . Jason Schmidt gave up four runs in six innings Tuesday in the latest start of his rehabilitation assignment with Albuquerque. Schmidt is scheduled to start again Sunday.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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