Furcal named NL Player of the Week
LOS ANGELES -- Rafael Furcal, the Los Angeles Dodgers' shortstop and leadoff man, had no idea he had been named the National League's Player of the Week on Tuesday until he was approached by a couple of reporters about it before Tuesday night's game with Florida.
"I don't watch the sports or read the papers," Furcal said. "[But] it's very special. I am so happy right now with the way I am playing and trying to help my team win."
Furcal received the honor for his performance from June 28 through Sunday, when he hit a major league-best .538 (14 for 26) and scored nine runs in six games.
Furcal took a couple of streaks into Tuesday, including a nine-game hitting streak during which he was batting .526 (20 for 38) and had at least two hits in seven of those games. He also had scored a run in 11 consecutive games, the first Dodgers player to do that since Shawn Green in 2002 and just the third since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. If Furcal scored a run on Tuesday night against the Marlins, he would have tied the all-time franchise mark of 12 consecutive games set by Gil Hodges in 1953.
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Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Furcal's .335 batting average would be tops in the NL if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Furcal missed a month because of a strained left hamstring and five additional games following the death of his father last month, leaving him 15 plate appearances short of qualifying for the list of the league's leading hitters (3.1 PAs per game played by the team).
In 12 games since returning from the bereavement list, Furcal is hitting .431 with a .474 on-base percentage, a clear indication that playing baseball has been therapeutic for him following his father's death, which came three weeks after he was kicked in the chest by a horse he was trying to shoe in the Dominican Republic.
"I put a lot of concentration into trying to forget when I'm at the ballpark," Furcal said. "You can't play ball if you're thinking about it, and right now, there is nothing I can do. I have people I need to take care of. I loved my dad, and he is always with me. He took care of everybody in my family. It's tough when you have a close family. I can tell you I didn't have a lot of concentration [when he was still playing while his father was hospitalized]. But now, there is nothing I can do. You just have to keep going."
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Furcal takes no issue with being left off the NL All-Star team, saying he plans to spend the three-day break visiting a cousin in Miami and taking his family to Walt Disney World.
No determination has been made as to when or where Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain, will begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment. But manager Joe Torre said that with Ramirez eligible to return in time for the Dodgers' second-half opener on July 15 at St. Louis and with the Triple-A All-Star break coinciding with the big league one next week, Ramirez's rehab almost certainly will take place this weekend.
However, Torre didn't completely rule out Ramirez going to high Class A Inland Empire for his rehab. The California League All-Star break took place last month and thus wouldn't be a factor if Ramirez wanted to rehab there through the early part of next week.
"To me, I think [Triple-A] Albuquerque makes more sense," Torre said. "We want somebody who can throw the ball over the plate, and the chances are better for that at Triple-A than in A-ball. But Manny probably doesn't care. He will swing at a ball over his head. My preference would be Triple-A, but he is the one hitting. If it doesn't bother him, it doesn't bother me."
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Weaver not a starter
Torre said he still has no plans to use veteran Jeff Weaver as a starter even after Weaver turned in 3 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings in relief of an ineffective John Ely on Monday night against the Marlins, throwing 50 pitches in the process. Weaver has gradually increased his pitch count over his past three appearances, throwing 29, 33 and 50.
"I am set against [that] right now," Torre said. "I don't think there is a [starter] whose place he should take at this point. Ely had a horrible start [Monday] night, but he has given us a lot more good than bad, and the fact is Weaver likes what he is doing. He really likes coming in out of the bullpen."
Torre did say reliever Ramon Troncoso, who was optioned to Albuquerque on Saturday, will be asked to build up his innings while in the minor leagues -- not because the Dodgers are looking to put him into their starting rotation, but just to give them an option as a long reliever or spot starter if someone is needed for either of those roles.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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