LOS ANGELES -- Injured Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal starts a Minor League rehab assignment with Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday after missing three weeks with a strained oblique, but manager Don Mattingly Saturday backed off earlier comments that Furcal might be moved to second base.
Mattingly has been starting rookie Dee Gordon in Furcal's place at shortstop and leadoff hitter, and Mattingly had said there was talk about keeping Gordon in place and sliding Furcal over the second base when he returns. But Gordon has been struggling offensively and Mattingly sounded more hesitant to move Furcal to second base Saturday.
"You caught me off-guard yesterday and we really hadn't talked that much about it," Mattingly told reporters. "I talked to Fukey about it and he's willing to do it, but I don't know if it's the best thing for him. He just wants to win, but there's hesitation for me, even though he's willing to do whatever you ask, he doesn't seem to want to do it. I don't know if it's the right time. We'll see."
In truth, Furcal had enough trouble when he returned from a six-week absence with a broken thumb (1-for-22), his rehab session cut short because Juan Uribe was injured. Combining returning from injury with learning a new position is asking a lot from Furcal, who was hitting only .212 when he went down with the oblique.
"He wants to feel like his timing is right when he comes back, so we'll give him the time he needs to rehab," Mattingly said when asked if there was a timetable for Furcal's return.
Meanwhile, Gordon's struggles continued with an 0-for-5 Friday night, making him 1-for-18 in a five-game stretch that has seen his average collapse from .326 to .246. Of greater concern for a leadoff hitter, he has 14 strikeouts and two walks. Throughout his Minor League career, Gordon's strikeout to walk ratio was generally 2-to-1.
"That tells you they're throwing strikes and they're going to force him to swing the bat," said Mattingly. "He's a burner and they're not going to walk him. They're going to attack. I could see that being out of whack and I also see it normalizing if he places the ball in play, bunts and gets more experience and laying off the borderline ball up. If he can get deeper into the count, that puts the pressure on the pitcher.
"Dee definitely has to get on base as the leadoff guy. He really hasn't bunted as much as we'd like to see. He's got to play his game. You're starting to see him roll over and hit grounders to second. You want to see him driving balls into the hole at third and short. When he's out in front like this, he's kind of cheating. He has to make adjustments."