Furcal lets his voice be heard
Something happened to Rafael Furcal when he went on the disabled list last season.
The boisterous shortstop suddenly turned quiet.
“Because you don’t play, you feel like if you say something to your teammates, they’re going to say something,” Furcal said. “I was afraid about that.”
Furcal sat out 4 1/2 months last season because of a bulging disk that required surgery, a process he said was so frustrating that he asked Manager Joe Torre at one point if he could leave the team.
“I don’t want be around everybody doing nothing, watching another guy play for me,” said Furcal, who remained with the club at Torre’s insistence and returned in time for the postseason.
He was signed to a three-year, $30-million contract this winter.
Furcal was back in old form Thursday, ordering reporters out of the Dodgers’ clubhouse before their first full-squad meeting of the spring with his playful trademark shout: “Media! Out!”
“You heard him,” third base coach Larry Bowa said, laughing. “Get out.”
To ensure that Furcal remains healthy enough to feel comfortable screaming his lungs out, Torre said he intends to give his leadoff hitter about a day off a week this season, at least in the early months.
Furcal took precautions on his own playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, starting most games at second base to reduce the amount of ground he had to cover.
Furcal said he looked forward to playing a full season with Manny Ramirez, who is still a free agent.
“Everybody in the world wants to hit in front of Manny because you want to jump on base and see Manny hitting with runners in scoring position,” he said.
“I think the pitcher’s got a headache when you have runners on second and first and Manny Ramirez is coming to bat.”
Can the Dodgers reach the playoffs without Ramirez? “I don’t know, I don’t know,” Furcal said.
Baseball and economics
While claiming that baseball could provide people with an escape in these tough economic times, club President Jamie McCourt wouldn’t say whether the Dodgers would consider lowering their spring training ticket prices, which range from $18 to $100.
Fan response has so far fallen short of the Dodgers’ expectations. They’re on pace to sell about half of their goal of 4,000 spring training season tickets.
“In my heart of hearts, I believe that American families need baseball more than ever,” said McCourt, who visited Camelback Ranch for a day. “I think it’s a really good thing when times are difficult to know that there’s something that’s consistent.”
When McCourt was told that some people might consider the tickets unaffordable, team spokesman Charles Steinberg interrupted by pointing out that they could sit on the grass behind the outfield fences for $8-$10. McCourt said, “I think everybody has to look at everything in this economy, but I also think that what we try to do here, as well as Dodger Stadium, is have something for everybody so that anybody can come here and figure out what works best for them under their own circumstances.”
Asked if the slow ticket sales could make the Dodgers reconsider their pricing structure, McCourt said, “I think right now we’re in such a learning mode for this facility to begin with. I think that when people get to see it, they’re going to be so happy that they got to come here and get to be part of watching all these players grow up.”
The Dodgers don’t appear to be close to a deal with Orlando Hudson but have enough interest in the free-agent second baseman to have worked him out recently, according to baseball sources. General Manager Ned Colletti confirmed on Wednesday that he has been in contact with Hudson’s representatives.