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Concern for Rafael Furcal goes deeper than his current skid

May 25, 2011 | 10:29 am

Llq96mncThey wait for Rafael Furcal, because really, what are the other choices?

The Dodgers need Furcal at the top of the order, getting on base, causing a little havoc, igniting a woeful offense. And playing some sterling shortstop.

Currently they are getting none of that. They have a hole in the leadoff spot. Since his return from the disabled list from a broken thumb on Sunday, he is 1-for-14 without a walk.

Furcal returned earlier than the Dodgers originally planned. They wanted him to get 25 to 30 at-bats in his rehab assignment before being activated.

But because he appeared to be playing well at Triple-A (.385), and -- no doubt more importantly -- Juan Uribe suddenly had to be added to the disabled list with a lower abdominal strain, Furcal was activated after just 16 rehab at-bats.

He hasn’t looked anything like the Furcal the Dodgers were counting on. That can be attributed to rushing his return, but in truth he wasn’t playing well before he broke his thumb. He hasn’t played up to form since missing most of last August with a lower back strain.

Furcal is currently hitting .150 with only one extra-base hit and one stolen base. The leadoff hitter has a .190 on-base percentage.

But he was off to a slow start before breaking his thumb (.192, .250) after hitting only .243 in the second half last season. His current struggles can’t be completely written off as just taking one for the team and returning too soon from injury.

Furcal is no kid, but he’s hardly ancient at 33. His replacement, Jamey Carroll, is 37. Carroll, of course, doesn’t have a history of back problems.

Furcal is the highest-paid Dodger ($13 million in 2011) and the Dodgers are clearly a better team when he is playing near his capabilities. He is in the last year of his contract and unlikely to reach the 600 plate appearances needed to kick in his option for next season.

Right now the Dodgers have two starting infielders on the DL (Casey Blake, Uribe). They are starting two infielders who are less than fully healthy (Aaron Miles, ribs; Carroll, finger).

They need Furcal. Only they need a productive Furcal, and it’s been awhile since he was seen.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Rafael Furcal. Credit: Brett Davis / US Presswire