Furcal's Bad Break Creates Opportunities

Rafael Furcal is out 4-6 weeks with a broken left thumb, which means he won't get the 600 plate appearances needed for his $12 million club option to automatically vest. It doesn't automatically mean his Dodger career will end after this season, though.

The Dodgers could always re-sign Furcal for a much cheaper contract. With five trips to the disabled list since joining the Dodgers, and six total, the 33-year-old Furcal won't be getting the 3-4 year contract offers he received after the 2008 season.

The shortstop-in-waiting is presumed to be Dee Gordon, but he needs to have a strong season at Class AAA Albuquerque for the Dodgers to anoint him the new shortstop. In recent years, the Dodgers have eased younger players into the lineup by having a veteran share the playing time.

"We'll see how the year goes," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, before the Dodgers lost 5-4 to the Giants to even the three-game series.

Furcal will likely return from the disabled list around Memorial Day. While he's gone, Jamey Carroll becomes the primary shortstop. Juan Uribe will also play there a little. Aaron Miles and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. are only viewed as shortstops in an emergency.

When a right-handed pitcher starts, Tony Gwynn, Jr. will start in left field and bat leadoff. When a lefty starts, Carroll is the mostly likely candidate to leadoff, although manager Don Mattingly said fifth outfielder Xavier Paul and even Uribe are possibilities.

De Jesus was recalled from Class AAA Albuquerque to take Furcal's place on the roster. He wasn't in the starting lineup Tuesday, but he should get a fair amount of starts because the Dodgers don't want to stunt his development by sitting on the bench in the majors.

In his first two games, De Jesus was 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, but Colletti pointed to the sample size and said, "the bat will play in the majors."

Loney's Slump Not Ending
It was manager Don Mattingly's plan all along to give first baseman James Loney an occasional day off against a tough left-handed pitcher, by having Casey Blake move across the diamond from third base. But the way Loney has started this season, lefty or righty hasn't mattered.

Loney is mired in a 7-for-43 (.163) slump to begin the season, and was given Wednesday off against Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Loney -- who popped out in the ninth as a pinch hitter against Giants closer Brian Wilson -- is 4-for-25 (.160) with a home run, four RBI and six strikeouts lifetime against Sanchez.

"He's just not rolling at all," Mattingly said, before the Dodgers lost 4-3 to the Giants. "To me, it's kinda feeding itself because he's gotten anxious. He swung the bat all right in the spring. We need to get him going."

Hitting coach Jeff Pentland has been working with Loney to get his hands higher, among other mechanical adjustments.

Eleven games into the season wouldn't normally be cause for alarm, but this slump is more eye opening because Loney struggled so much after the All-Star break last year.

At the break: .309/.361/.442, six home runs, 25 doubles and 63 RBI.

After the break: .211/.285/.331, four home runs, 16 doubles, 25 RBI.

The knock on Loney has always been that he doesn't hit enough home runs. He hit 13 in 2008 and 2009, then 10 last year. One theory is the criticism has gotten into Loney's head -- he's trying too hard to hit home runs, and it's affected his overall hitting.

"I hope that's not the case," said Mattingly, who worked closely with Loney the last 2 1/2 years as the hitting coach. "We tried to stay away from any of that talk last year -- with anybody. There's nobody you deal with where you talk about trying to hit home runs. We talk about his swing, his approach, what the pitcher is trying to do to get you out."

Mattingly reiterated he doesn't care about Loney hitting home runs. He's content with the doubles, the RBI and the batting average.

NOTES, QUOTES
--3B Casey Blake started at first base in place of 1B James Loney. It was his first start at first base since Aug. 20, 2008 -- less than a month after getting traded from the Indians to the Dodgers. Blake, who moved to left field in the eighth, had an uneventful night in the field.

--LHP Ted Lilly took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning, then gave up solo home runs to Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot. He's given up four home runs in three starts this year, after giving up 32 a year ago.

--RF Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a bloop single to left off lefty reliever Javier Lopez in the seventh.

--INF Juan Uribe was cheered by Giants fans upon receiving his World Series ring before Monday's game. He was mostly booed the rest of the series, and went 2-for-10 with three strikeouts, a walk and a hit batsman.

--SS Rafael Furcal mentioned the word retirement after breaking his left thumb Monday night, but general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly believe that was just his frustration at the latest setback in an injury-marred tenure with the Dodgers. Furcal is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

MINOR LEAGUE RESULTS
Albuquerque (5-2) dumped Iowa 10-7 with Trent Oeltjen belting a pair of homers and knocking in four; Chattanooga beat Birmingham 6-2 behind Rubby De La Rosa (1-0) who allowed three hits in five innings and struck out nine. De La Rosa's season was delayed because he returned to the Dominican Republic after the death of a grandmother who raised him.; Rancho Cucamonga lost 11-4 to Lake Elsinore as Alan Webster allowed five runs in 4.2 innings and Great Lakes dumped West Michigan 8-5 as Zach Lee (1-0) had another boffo performance, allowing one run in seven innings and fanning seven while picking up his first professional win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Steals by Eric Young Sr. in April 1999, a major league record. Matt Kemp, who leads the majors with seven steals, has a chance to break Young's record for March/April.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You're never too happy when you get hit. It's cold out there. When you get hit, especially in the elbow, you're not going to be too happy." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the long stare and slow walk to first base by Juan Uribe, after getting hit by Tim Lincecum on Tuesday night. Uribe's been hit three times this year, twice by Lincecum. Ted Lilly plunked Giants C Buster Posey in the first and third innings Wednesday night, prompting the umpires to warn both benches.

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Chad Billingsley faced the minimum batters through three innings, but allowed a combined six hits and four runs in the fourth and fifth innings to end his night. It was the first time in nine career starts at AT&T Park that Billingsley allowed more than three runs in a game.

--RF Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak to nine games, is one homer away for 100 in his career. He would become the 24th player in franchise history and 15th L.A. Dodger to reach the century mark.

--CF Matt Kemp was thrown out trying to steal for the first time this year, after seven successful attempts. Replays showed the ball beat Kemp, but Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval tagged the helmet of Kemp, which had fallen off his head. Kemp singled, doubled and walked twice (once intentional). He's reached base 26 of his 45 plate appearances this year, a .578 on-base percentage.

--RHP Vicente Padilla resumed throwing off a mound this week, and it sounds like he's less than two weeks from coming off the disabled list. Manager Don Mattingly said Padilla's close to leaving on a rehab assignment, and since he's only being asked to pitch 1-2 innings in relief, it shouldn't take long.

--3B Casey Blake missed a third straight game since colliding with Padres third baseman Chase Headley on a game-ending interference call Saturday night. Blake has a deep charley horse, which prevents him from running full speed, and given with the frigid conditions in San Francisco, he probably won't return to the lineup until Thursday at the earliest.

--1B Jerry Sands, the organization's top prospect at Class AAA Albuquerque, homered for a fourth straight game Tuesday and drove in five runs. He has hit in seven straight games and is batting a robust .393 with 14 RBI in seven games.

MEDICAL WATCH:
--SS Rafael Furcal (broken left thumb) was injured 11, and he is likely to be out for six weeks. Furcal didn't play April 9-10 due to a wrist injury.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right forearm surgery in February 2011) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He felt some soreness after a bullpen session in early April, but resumed throwing soon after. He could return by May 1.

--RHP Jon Garland (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. Garland allowed three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings April 10 for Class A Rancho Cucamonga in a rehab outing. He will return to the big-league rotation April 15 against the Cardinals.

--OF Jay Gibbons (blurred vision in left eye) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He got new contact lenses in late March. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Albuquerque on April 7.

--C Dioner Navarro (torn right oblique muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, but has gone to Arizona to continue his rehab. He might be able to return late in April.

    ROTATION:
   LHP Clayton Kershaw
   RHP Chad Billingsley
   LHP Ted Lilly
   RHP Hiroki Kuroda
   
    BULLPEN:
   RHP Jonathan Broxton
   LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
   RHP Matt Guerrier
   LHP Kenley Jansen
   RHP Blake Hawksworth
   RHP Lance Cormier
   RHP Mike MacDougal
   
    CATCHERS:
   Rod Barajas
   A.J. Ellis
   
    INFIELDERS:
   1B James Loney
   2B Aaron Miles
   SS Jamey Carroll
   3B Casey Blake
   INF Ivan De Jesus
   INF Juan Uribe
   
    OUTFIELDERS:
   LF Tony Gwynn Jr.
   CF Matt Kemp
   RF Andre Ethier
   OF Marcus Thames
   OF Xavier Paul
   OF Jamie Hoffmann


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