Notes: Furcal returns to lineup Tuesday

Notes: Furcal returns to lineup Tuesday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Rafael Furcal will return as the shortstop and leadoff man for the Dodgers' on Tuesday at Vero Beach against the Detroit Tigers.

The speedy All-Star will be playing in his first game since March 1, when he aggravated his right shoulder injury in the Spring Training opener against the Braves.

"He's been champing at the bit to get in there," Dodgers manager Grady Little said before Monday's 4-2 win at Baltimore. "He makes an impact on everyone around him."

Fellow speedster Juan Pierre is excited about being able to use the rest of the spring to learn the baserunning style of his new teammate.

"He's feeling me out and I'm feeling him out," Pierre said. "With me and Furcal, if we get on the basepaths we can cause so much havoc."

As the sparks of the lineup, Pierre and Furcal hope to use the rest of the spring to get in tune to better enhance their ability to advance an extra base.

"This is the time you play around with things -- in Spring Training," Pierre said. "This way you don't have any conflicts in the regular season."

Little said Furcal, a switch-hitter, probably only will play two to three innings, but there won't be any limitations on his performance.

"He's not the kind of player you can restrict his actions out there," Little said. "He's naturally going to play hard. We're going to treat it like the first game of Spring Training [for Furcal]."

Little said Furcal has probably been ready to play for two or three days, but the Dodgers waited to be sure he was ready.

Furcal, in his first season with the Dodgers in 2006, became one of six players in team history to tally 50 extra-base hits and steal 30 bases, joining Davey Lopes, Steve Sax, Kirk Gibson and Raul Mondesi (twice). Rurcal also finished 14th in the National League MVP voting in a season in which he batted .300 and scored 113 runs, the fourth-highest total in Dodgers history.

Anderson to also return soon: Marlon Anderson, rehabilitating from offseason elbow surgery, also will be returning to the lineup -- on Thursday.

Little is not sure if Anderson will be the designated hitter or if he will play in the field, but Anderson will play in the night game against Washington on Thursday. The Dodgers are off Wednesday, but play the St. Louis Cardinals at 10:05 a.m. in Jupiter before a 4:05 p.m. PT game with the visiting Washington Nationals.

The versatile Anderson, who bats lefty, hopes to pick up where he left off last year. After being acquired from Washington on Aug. 31, he batted .375 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs in 25 games for Los Angeles, taking over the starting left-field job in the final weeks of the season. He appeared in three games in the National League Division Series, batting .308 with an RBI and a double.

Tomko has another strong outing: Brett Tomko furthered his bid to become the Dodgers' fifth starter by throwing three strong innings on Monday.

The right-hander allowed just one run on one hit, walked one and struck out none. Of the 36 pitches he threw, 21 of them were strikes.

Tomko, 33, said he was mixing up his pitches as best he could to prove himself worthy of that coveted fifth spot. The three other candidates are Hong-Chih Kuo, Chad Billingsley and Mark Hendrickson, all of whom have shown promise.

"I'm just throwing everything I've got out there," Tomko said. "I have a job to win, and I don't have the luxury of tinkering with stuff."

The 10-year Major League veteran wanted to pitch the fourth frame, but Joe Mays took over on the mound, so Tomko threw another simulated inning in the bullpen.

Tomko threw first-pitch balls to six of the first seven batters he faced, but was able to battle back each time. His lone walk issued was to the Orioles' first batter, Freddie Bynum, on five pitches. Bynum stole second, and eventually scored on a groundout before Tomko got Miguel Tejada to fly out to center to end the inning. Tomko found his rhythm in the second frame, throwing 13 pitches (seven for strikes), and then threw just six pitches in the third.

"I was trying to get my pitching count up," said Tomko, who was limited to two innings in his other two spring appearances. In his three spring outings, Tomko has allowed one run, three hits and one walk. He has struck out two.

Little said Tomko could pitch up to 60-75 pitches in his next outing, but reiterated that the team still has a tough decision to make in terms of who will be the fifth starter.

"We feel we can't go wrong [with the candidates they have]," Little said. "It may be awhile before we make that decision.

"It was another impressive outing by Tomko. He will be prepared to do whatever his job will be once the season opens."

In 2006, Tomko was 8-7 with a 4.73 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 29 walks in 112 1/3 innings. He began the year as a starter but finished as a short reliever in the bullpen.

Reunited, and it feels so good: Larry Bigbie, the Orioles No. 1 draft pick in 1999 and Opening Day starter in left field in 2004 and 2005, shared hugs and handshakes with many of his former teammates Monday. Most of the greetings were congratulations on his tremendous spring effort for the Dodgers.

Bigbie came into Monday leading the Grapefruit League with 10 RBIs. The 29-year-old, who spent all but 17 games in 2006 on the disabled list for the St. Louis Cardinals, was also batting .385 with a double, triple, two homers and 19 total bases this spring while playing both corner outfield spots. Bigbie also hit the game-winning, bases-loaded single on Sunday.

"All you've got to do is stay healthy," Baltimore coach Rick Dempsey told Bigbie while laughing after a bear hug.

On Monday, Bigbie went 0-for-2 with a walk and misplayed a fly ball in left field in the second inning for an error.

Repko update: Although there is still no timetable on when outfielder Jason Repko will be able to return, Little said he was better today and the "outlook was a lot more optimistic than it was two days ago." Repko suffered a strain to his right groin muscle while playing center field in Saturday's game against the Marlins in Jupiter.

On Monday, Bigbie started in left, Pierre in center and Matt Kemp in right. Kemp was 1-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored.

James Loney, who also played right field on Monday, and Andy La Roche, who played third base, also have been getting work in the outfield. Loney is batting .483 for the spring and La Roche, who hit a double on Monday, is batting .250.

Celebrity sighting: Pat Sajak, host of "Wheel of Fortune" and a baseball enthusiast, was playing catch in foul territory before Monday's game. After the players retreated to their dugouts to get ready for the game, Sajak signed autographs on baseballs for the fans. He also threw out the first pitch.

Up next: Right-hander Derek Lowe, slated to be the Dodgers' Opening Day starter, will take the mound at 10:05 a.m. PT on Tuesday at Vero Beach against the Detroit Tigers, who will counter with Nate Robertson.

Faran Fagan is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.