Izturis Will Not Go Quietly into the Night

Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis, a former Gold Glove winner who well might be without a position when he returns around the All-Star break from reconstructive elbow surgery, said he was slightly surprised by when the club signed free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Furcal signed a three-year, $39 million contract to play shortstop through 2008 and General Manager Ned Colletti has made it clear that Furcal is the Dodger shortstop. Power-hitting Jeff Kent, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is the second baseman.

Conjecture that Izturis will eventually moved to second base has made things a bit delicate. "It's baseball," Izturis said. "It's a business. I think they just weren't sure when I was going to get back. I think the people they brought in will be good for the team. Furcal is a great player, and they brought him here to help the team win. But I was surprised."

When asked about second base, he said "Second base? Who said that?" Apparently the idea of moving to the other side of second doesn't sit well with him after winning the Gold Glove at shortstop in 2004. "They haven't said anything to me about that."

"But if I have to, I have to," he said. "But I'm a shortstop, that's my position. There is no doubt in my mind."

Recovery from elbow replacement surgery won't be complete until at least the All-Star break. Izturis' ligament injury on the inside of his right elbow is complicated by a degenerative arthritic condition, in which the bone deteriorates because of blood-flow loss, causing pain.

His rehab is on schedule, and he is throwing at about 40 feet and taking batting practice from both sides of the plate.

Grady Little on wouldn't say that All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis will be a second baseman when he returns from his injured elbow. He wouldn't say Izturis would be a shortstop, either.

Where does that leaves the 26-year-old Izturis? He may be traded, he could be the clubs utility infielder -- although pretty expensive -- or he could be insurance against an injury to either middle infielder. And if first baseman Nomar Garciaparra would be injured, Kent could slide over to first and Izturis could play second.

"We're close friends," said Furcal, who expects to be ready before than Opening Day. "I told him this wasn't my fault and it wasn't his fault. He said he's happy I'm here. It's nothing personal. We both just want to win."

But friends or nor, Furcal made it clear that if somebody is moving off shortstop, it won't be him. "When I signed, I understand they want me to play shortstop for three years," he said. "If I'm playing, I think for the next three years I'm playing shortstop."

Miller May be Ready-- Left-hander Greg Miller, at one time the wunderkind of the Dodger minor league system and still only 21 years old, has had two shoulder operations and posted just a few games last season -- four games with the Gulf Coast Dodgers, five with Vero Beach and an even dozen at Jacksonville. Surprisingly, those outings went extremely well and organizational insiders now say he has a remote chance of actually making the club this spring as a lefty reliever. "I'm just trying to go out and get my feet back under me," he said. "It has been two years since I took (pitchers' fielding practice), two years since I practiced pickoffs. I just want to throw some effective bullpens, try to stay healthy for six weeks and get into the season on the right track." While he probably will start at Triple-A Las Vegas, but during the spring he will be the mix with newly acquired Tim Hamulack, newly signed Joe Beimel and incumbents Hong-Chih Kuo and Kelly Wunsch for what probably won't be more than two left-handed bullpen spots. "It's really tough to tell about the arm," he said. "I haven't thrown more than 45 pitches on the side, which is where I'm at now. I don't know if I'll eventually be able to throw 100 pitches in a game. I grew up as a starter, but at the same time, I really enjoy being able to pitch every other day if needed."

BA Rankings-- Baseball America, who seems to rank everything, has posted their latest minor league list with a number of Dodger prospects listed. Bill Shelley may expand on the player list but basically they include their time of arrival in the major leagues. Included are catcher Russell Martin (2nd), 2006; James Loney was completely overlooked at first base, saying only he has shown "flashes"; 2B Blake DeWitt (4th), 2008 feeling, as Shelley does, that he will move from third to second; 3B Andy LaRoche,(5th) 2007; SS Chin-Lung Hu, (9th) 2007; OF Joel Guzman (7th) 2007 with no mention at all of Matt Kemp; RHP Chad Billingsley (1st) 2006 with Blake Johnson and Justin Orenduff as sleepers; LHP Scott Elbert (6th) 2008 and reliever RHP Jonathan Broxton (2nd) 2006 and LHP Hong Chih Kuo as one to consider.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Manager Grady Little is wearing No. 9 on his Dodger uniform, something he couldn't do as Boston Red Sox manager because it was Ted Williams' number and had been retired. "They wouldn't let me use it in Boston for some reason," Little joked. "Here, I wanted No. 2, but they wouldn't let me have that one, either." That number is retired also and Tom Lasorda still No. 2 during spring training. …Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltré reported to Spring Training wearing a smile and minus more than 10 pounds. After being periodically hampered by a sore left hamstring last season, Beltré returned to his Los Angeles home and started eating "mostly chicken breasts and salads, no carbohydrates." At 216 pounds, Beltré is close to his playing weight in 2004, when he had a career year with the Dodgers -- a .334 batting average, 48 home runs and 121 RBI. That season landed him a five-year, $64 million contract with the Mariners. …

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