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Dodgers' Rafael Furcal approaches 2011 season in a gray area

The 33-year-old shortstop enters the final guaranteed year of his contract needing to make 600 plate appearances to activate a club option for 2012. That's a big 'if' for a player who's battled back injuries since 2008.

February 20, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal loosens up during spring training at Camelback Ranch on Saturday.
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal loosens up during spring training at Camelback… (Kyle Terada / US Presswire )

Reporting from Phoenix — Rafael Furcal pointed to the white hairs along the side of his head and laughed.

Yes, Furcal conceded, he's older.

But even though the shortstop has had back problems in recent years that will force the Dodgers to handle him with almost as much care as 37-year-old Casey Blake, he said retirement is not even remotely on his mind.

"I'm 33 years old," Furcal said. "Some guys play until they're 42."

Furcal's future with the Dodgers probably will be determined by his ability to remain healthy in the final guaranteed year of his contract. If he can make 600 plate appearances, his $12-million club option for 2012 will automatically be exercised.

"I'm not thinking about that at all," Furcal said.

But Furcal said he was working out in his native Dominican Republic as far back as November to avoid a relapse.

Furcal missed 125 games in 2008, when he underwent a midseason back operation.

He played in 150 games the following year and made the All-Star team in 2010, but back pain pushed him onto the disabled list from Aug. 3 to Sept. 3. He played in a total of 97 games.

If this is Furcal's last season with the Dodgers, he wants to leave a legacy.

Furcal said he intends to help prospect Dee Gordon, who is in major league camp and could one day be his replacement. He said others did the same for him.

"When I was in Atlanta, Walt Weiss and Ozzie Guillen helped me out a lot," Furcal said. Of Gordon, he said, "He's a good player. I don't think he needs much."

The King's Speech

With position players scheduled to report to Camelback Ranch on Monday, Manager Don Mattingly is looking ahead to the Dodgers' full-squad workout Tuesday.

The part that has the rookie manager nervous is his pre-workout address.

Mattingly said he has been preparing his speech the entire winter.

"I want them to know me and how I think," Mattingly said.

Asked if his players think he's more laid-back than he actually is, the hands-on manager said, "Probably."

While Mattingly said he sometimes held back when working under Joe Torre, he believes his players learned something important about him in his three seasons as the hitting coach.

"They know they can count on my consistency," he said.

Mattingly said he has outlined what he will say but hasn't rehearsed it out loud. He got a trial run of sorts when he addressed the team's pitchers and catchers last week.

"It was kind of a relief once it was over," he said.


Leave it to Mattingly to put a positive spin on something.

On Sunday, it was the weather. Rain forced the Dodgers off the practice fields for the second consecutive day, but Mattingly said he didn't mind.

Mattingly said he liked that he was able to get his players out of their spikes for a day, considering they had been working out all winter. If they don't practice, Mattingly reasoned, they can't get hurt.

"You can't compete if you're not healthy," Mattingly said.

Vin Scully to work opening day

ESPN will be televising the Dodgers' season opener against the San Francisco Giants on March 31, but Vin Scully will still be calling the game.

Scully will broadcast six innings on radio for 790-AM. Scully, who is entering his 62nd season with the Dodgers, will call the first three innings, and the seventh through ninth.

Rick Monday and Charley Steiner will work the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

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