Notes: LA's Furcal says he'll be ready
Dodgers have used five different players in his place so far
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Because of a sore shoulder, Rafael Furcal has already missed more time this spring than the Dodgers would like to think about (10 of 11 games and counting), which begs the question they really don't want to think about:
What if he missed a lot of time during the season? Who would play shortstop?
And in who, we're not talking about Chin-lung Hu, although he is one of the five replacement starters manager Grady Little has used in the 10 games Furcal has missed. Hu hasn't played beyond Double-A and he figures to be promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas this year, not the Major Leagues.
The fact that Little has shuttled so many players to start at the position (Wilson Valdez, four starts; Ramon Martinez, three; Hu, one; Damian Jackson, one; and Tony Abreu, one) is a sign that there is no clear choice should Furcal break down. There is no Russell Martin or Andre Ethier or Jonathan Broxton ready to step in.
Martinez is a veteran utilityman with 252 games of Major League shortstop experience, but never as an everyday player. Valdez, who has made a positive impression in camp and is out of options, has 62 games of Major League shortstop experience. Jackson is a one-time starting shortstop for San Diego who has 284 games of Major League shortstop experience, but in recent years has been a utilityman, playing nearly as much in the outfield as the infield. Abreu, like Hu, played at Double-A last year, and second base at that. His shortstop play is limited to a handful of games and the club took a look at him Friday.
The switch-hitting Furcal can now swing aggressively right-handed, has begun to swing left-handed (but not as aggressively) and started to toss about 40 feet.
"There are two-and-a-half weeks to go and with two weeks, I'll be fine," said Furcal, who is not expected to see game action until the middle of next week.
Bench competition: Utilityman Marlon Anderson's progress has been slower than Furcal's by design after suffering a setback in his recovery from offseason elbow surgery 10 days ago. Anderson said there's no problem with the joint where bone chips were removed, but he overused triceps and forearm muscles that had atrophied.
"He was telling everybody he was all right when he wasn't ready to do what he was trying to do," said Little, who indicated Anderson also could be ready for game action by the middle of next week.
Should Anderson be disabled, finding a left-handed bat for the bench will be easier than finding a replacement shortstop.
Larry Bigbie and James Loney, both left-handed like Anderson, are swinging two of the hottest bats in camp. Bigbie went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs Friday, raising his average to .474 (9-for-19), and Loney went 3-for-3 with a double and RBI, raising his average to .500 (11-for-22).
Bigbie is a proven Major League hitter now healthy after his career was interrupted by injuries. Loney is the hitting machine whose path to the Major Leagues was blocked by the re-signing of Nomar Garciaparra, who now plays Loney's natural position of first base.
The hottest hitter on the team is already penciled in as the starting right fielder. That's Ethier, who went 3-for-4 Friday and raised his average to .526 (10-for-19).
After striking out the side in his inning Thursday night, he has allowed one hit in three scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Seanez has pitched 12 Major League seasons for eight organizations and had repeat stays with five of them.
What if Seanez doesn't make the club and there isn't room for him on a West Coast team?
"I'm done and I'll take the next step," he said. "Mixed martial arts fighting. I have to try it."
He's not kidding. Seanez works out several days a week with fighters from the sometimes brutal sport, even in Vero Beach.
"If you look hard enough and ask the right people, you can find them anywhere," he said.
Pitching recap: Starter Randy Wolf allowed a two-run homer in 2 2/3 innings, and his next start will be a simulated game on Wednesday, a day off for the rest of the club.
Chad Billingsley helped his chances for the fifth starter spot with 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. He hasn't allowed an earned run in 6 1/3 innings.
Former No. 1 pick Scott Elbert, in his first camp, allowed three homers in one-third of an inning. Eric Hull pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for a total this spring of 3 2/3.
Injury update: Andy La Roche, who left Thursday night's game after being struck on the right wrist by a pitch, had no physical limitations and played the final two innings.
Brazoban progressing: Yhency Brazoban is throwing harder in bullpen sessions than some Dodgers pitchers who are presumed healthy, but the club is resisting the temptation to accelerate his comeback from April's Tommy John elbow reconstruction.
"Dr. Jobe has told us that even though a guy might look like he's ready to take the next step, it's important to stay on schedule because things like sliders put torque on the joint and it might not be ready for it," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
"He went from 25 to 30 pitches in his side sessions and we'll just go from there. But he is throwing hard, free and easy, and his arm slot is good. Knock on wood, he's progressing well.
Coming up: The Dodgers play simultaneous home-and-away split-squad games Saturday with Florida. In the game at Vero Beach, Jason Schmidt will start, followed by Greg Miller, with closer Takashi Saito also scheduled to pitch. In the game at Jupiter, Mark Hendrickson will start, followed by D.J. Houlton. Hendrickson is contending for the fifth-starter job. It's unclear where Houlton fits. He will be pitching for the first time in six days, the longest layoff this spring for a healthy pitcher.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.