LOS ANGELES -- Rafael Furcal wasted no time showing that his lost last year was long ago and far away. He doubled in the first inning and scored. He singled in a run in the second inning, walked in the fourth and singled in the sixth. And on the highlight defensive play of the day, he ranged far to his left to glove a sharp grounder by Giants third baseman Jose Castillo, spun counterclockwise completely and showed off his powerful arm for the second out in the fifth inning.
"I couldn't make that play last year because of my ankle," said Furcal, referring to the sprain he played with the entire season. "Last year, I can't turn on my ankle like that. You see what happens when you're 100 percent. Anything can happen." For starters, the Dodgers would like to think that Furcal can return to the player he was in 2006, his first year with the club, when he was the most consistent offensive player. He's coming off a Spring Training in which he batted .373. "Playing winter ball in the Dominican helped me out," Furcal said. "The approach I had in the Dominican is the same approach I have here. Last year, I could hit right-handed, but left-handed I was hitting with one leg and I couldn't stay back on the ankle. This year is very different. This year I enjoy going to the field every day." With Juan Pierre losing his starting job in left field, Furcal is back atop the batting order, where he likes to be. He not only looks healthier in the field, he sounds happier. "The chemistry this year is the biggest difference from last year," he said. "The manager, he knows what he's doing. The veteran guys, they are teaching the young players. Everybody here is happy. We need to be 25 guys, all together, and we can do it. This team has unbelievable young talent, maybe the most of any team."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.