Dodgers: Mattingly Defends Furcal, Uribe

How long can Dodgers manager Don Mattingly continue to play Juan Uribe and Rafael Furcal virtually every day? Based on his answer Sunday, a lot longer. Mattingly didn't start Furcal on Sunday, but he gave reporters his most passionate support for his shortstop before the Dodgers' 4-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

"(Furcal) may not be the player he was five or six years ago, but that doesn't mean he can't play," Mattingly said. "Why get on Fukey? I know this is about the bottom line, but I get upset with Fukey-beating. I believe in the guy and what he's capable of doing. I see bat speed. He's just trying too hard. You love that; it's better than not trying. You can't defend the no-production, it's right in front of you, but I can defend effort."

Furcal flied out to shallow right as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. He's in a 3-for-32 slump since coming off the disabled list. For the season, he's 17-for-101, which is .168 in 27 games.

A year ago, Furcal was a late addition to the All-Star team, and finished the year with a .300/.366/.460 slash line, along with 22 steals in 26 attempts. He's 33 years old, a free agent when the year is done and doubtful to return to the Dodgers, but Mattingly is adamant that he's not done.

"You guys get on Fukey," Mattingly said to reporters, "but he's still got bat speed. Last year (the Mets) were ready to get rid of Beltran. But (hitting coach Jeff Pentland) and I saw he still had bat speed, and he's back rolling and he's big trade talk. Fukey is in the same boat. He's still got bat speed. He's been hurt so much. I can't ever get away from this guy playing with energy every time. He's never not trying."

The same can be said for Uribe. He's trying, probably trying too hard, to live up to last season's career year, justify a three-year contract, and the mixed emotions of signing with a heated rival.

Uribe went 1-for-3 Sunday, including a foul popup in the seventh with runners at the corners and one out. His batting average is .206, his OPS is well below .600, and his last home run was June 20.

Last season, he only batted .248 with a .310 on-base percentage. But the 24 home runs, 85 RBI and playoff heroics made him beloved in San Francisco. That combination of power and versatility made him wanted in Los Angeles.

"Juan's had a tough year, but last year was a career year, and it's not going away in three or four months," Mattingly said. "He's got to find it. We can work with him, talk to him, but until he squares up a ball in a game, it's hard to get it back.

"There's something about hitting -- you lose the confidence, and it's not good. It's a confidence game. I can't sit here and say, 'This guy can't do it.' I will come to Juan's defense. He's still working. It's not like (he's saying), 'What do I care?' He's bothered by this."

Rivera's Debut Evokes Good Memories
> Marlon Anderson wasn't expected to make a big difference when the Dodgers acquired him in late August of 2006. But he blasted seven home runs in 25 games, posted a slash line of .375/.431/.813 in 73 plate appearances, and hit the last of four straight solo home runs in a legendary come-from-behind win over the Padres.

Ronnie Belliard wasn't expected to make a big difference when the Dodgers acquired him in late August of 2009. But he blasted five home runs in 24 games, posted a slash line of .351/.398/.636 in 83 plate appearances, and took advantage of an injury by Orlando Hudson to steal the starting second base job in the playoffs.

Likewise, Juan Rivera wasn't expected to make a big difference when the Dodgers acquired him over the All-Star break. The similarities to Anderson and Belliard might be a stretch, but the Dodgers can dream that lightning might strike three times in six years, and Rivera's debut in a Dodgers uniform Friday night stretched the imagination.

Rivera homered on the first pitch he saw, later singled and scored a run, and the Dodgers extended their winning streak to five games with a 6-4 triumph over the Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers have their most momentum of the season but are still nine games under .500 and have a long way to go. It's a start, though.

Rivera became the ninth player to start in left field for the Dodgers this year, batting fifth Friday night against Arizona lefty Joe Saunders. So far, manager Don Mattingly said lefty Tony Gwynn Jr. is still his primary left fielder, but he also said that Rivera isn't strictly a platoon player to start when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound.

Rivera could force Mattingly's hand for more playing time if his debut is the start of a run similar to what Anderson or Belliard did.

--CF Matt Kemp homered Friday and Saturday. It was the fourth time this year he's gone deep in consecutive games.

--RF Andre Ethier padded his outfield assist totals with his eighth in Saturday's game. He took a double off the wall, and Rafael Furcal's relay throw to third nailed Steven Drew. The Dodgers are tied for the second-most outfield assists in the majors.

--LHP Ted Lilly turned in a typical outing Sunday for him, and against the free-swinging, strikeout-prone, homer-bashing Diamondbacks. Lilly struck out six in 6 2/3 innings, and allowed a pair of solo home runs -- including one to opposing pitcher Daniel Hudson. Two of his inherited runners came around to score, charging him with four runs.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda continues to pitch well, and get no run support. His ERA is 2.59 in his last eight starts, and he's got a 1-6 record to show for it. The latest was a 3-2 loss Saturday at Arizona.

--LHP Scott Elbert pitched two scoreless innings in Saturday's game. It was his longest outing of the year.

-C A.J. Ellis was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Rod Barajas to get reinstated from the disabled list. Ellis was getting more playing time in recent weeks than Dioner Navarro, but Ellis has minor league options remaining and Navarro doesn't.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Hits by the Dodgers in their three-game sweep of the Padres going into the All-Star break. The last time a major league team had 12 hits or fewer and still swept a three-game series was the Washington Senators from Sept. 9-11, 1966. The scores then were identical to the Dodgers' scores against San Diego: 1-0, 1-0 and 4-1.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "At this point, I haven't heard anything, and as long as I'm wearing the Dodgers uniform I'll play here to win. I haven't talked to my agent about it, so as of today I have no intention of leaving this ballclub. As a player, it's an honor to have clubs interested in me. But I decided to play with this organization one more year and that's my intention." -- RHP Hiroki Kuroda, through his translator, about the possibility of getting traded sometime this month to a contender.

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