Notes: Furcal nursing injured shoulder

Notes: Furcal nursing injured shoulder

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Shortstop and leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal injured his shoulder for the second consecutive spring, won't make the Dodgers' overnight trip to Ft. Myers, Fla., on Monday and isn't sure when he'll return to action.

"Just like last year," said Furcal, who hasn't played since the exhibition opener Thursday in Orlando. "It hurts to throw and to swing the bat a little. They [are giving] me a few days off. It's not as bad as it was last year. I'll be ready for Opening Day."

Trying to work his way into shape last spring after knee surgery, the switch-hitter developed soreness from too much throwing. The injury also made it difficult for Furcal to swing a bat left-handed. He missed the first two weeks of exhibition games, although the knee was the primary reason.

Furcal also suffered from a strained back and finger and was noticeably flabby when he reported for Spring Training last year, his first as a Dodger. The net result from the series of nagging injuries was a slow start for the shortstop, who nonetheless finished the season batting .300 and was the club's most consistent offensive player.

Furcal, who has a rifle for a throwing arm and likes to show it off, is not throwing or taking batting practice and does not figure to play in a game until late in the week.

"It's nothing serious," said manager Grady Little. "We'll slow down his progress before we put him in many games. Any time a player is in the trainer's room, you've got to worry. Each day it's better and it's not a big concern right now."

Saito sound: Closer Takashi Saito tossed a 15-pitch simulated game, reported no problems with his strained calf muscle and will make his first game appearance Wednesday. The injury has never interfered with his throwing, but he's been unable to participate in fielding drills.

"If something happens during a game, I haven't done it in full-speed game conditions and you might not see a great play. I might give way to other players," he said.

Saito originally suffered the injury during offseason conditioning while running and re-injured it in mid-January.

"It's always in the back of your mind," he said. "Every day it's better and better, but I don't know when I'll feel that it won't be there. I do think about it."

Anderson's slow improvement: Marlon Anderson said he still has tenderness in his throwing elbow, but the improvement has been steady. Like Furcal, he took ground balls but did not throw them back.

"It's still going to be a few days before I'm cleared to fully participate," he said. "But no way I won't be ready for the season to start. No way."

Three more errors: With Furcal out, his teammates continued their sloppy ways on defense, committing three errors in the split-squad game at Vero Beach, Fla., and another two at the game in Viera, bringing the total to 12 in five games. Charged with errors Sunday were shortstops Ramon Martinez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. and center fielder Matt Kemp in Vero Beach, and Damian Jackson and Fernando Tatis in Viera.

"Nobody's this bad," said Little. "We'll be fine."

And the positives: Brett Tomko helped his bid for the fifth starter's job with two scoreless innings against Washington, and Joe Mays bounced back from a shaky intrasquad game to throw two scoreless innings against Atlanta. Tim Hamulack pitched well in relief in Viera, and Zach Hammes and Chin-Hui Tsao did the same at Vero Beach. Wilson Valdez had two more hits in Viera as did James Loney. Valdez, a shortstop who is out of options, is 6-for-10 in his longshot bid.

Offensively, Jason Repko and Jeff Kent had two hits each in Vero Beach. Repko, coming off a procedure for a foot cyst, stole a base and scored the Dodgers' only run in the first inning.

Starter Derek Lowe allowed four consecutive singles and two runs in two innings. But being the Opening Day starter, he had the luxury of testing a new wrinkle in his set position.

"I was watching the runner over my right shoulder instead of the left, but it didn't work," he said. "But at least I was able to try it out."

Said catcher Mike Lieberthal: "In the bullpen before the game, his sinker was nasty, dropping about three feet."

Lieberthal, who threw out a potential base stealer, said he felt physically sound catching his first game. He is coming off a series of injuries, most recently a torn abdominal muscle that required surgery.

A 6th starter? While Tomko competes for the fifth starter's spot with Hong-Chih Kuo, Chad Billingsley and Mark Hendrickson, Little is thinking about the sixth starter. By that he means the swingman or Minor League callup who moves into the rotation because one of his regular starters is hurt or ineffective.

"Last year our sixth starter made more than 20 starts," he said. Little was referring to the group of Aaron Sele (15), Kuo (five) and Eric Stults (two).

Excess pitching: Elmer Dessens allowed one unearned run in two innings. Dessens is potential trade bait as the Dodgers have a surplus of middle relievers, including non-roster right-hander Rudy Seanez. Dessens earns $1.7 million this year.

Coming up: The Dodgers will take on the Red Sox at 10:05 a.m. PT on Monday at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla. It will be the first time Nomar Garciaparra has played in front of a Red Sox crowd since July 31, 2004.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.