Not good, from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
MILWAUKEE — Shortstop Rafael Furcal had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday when his lower back injury turned out to be worse than the club had believed.
Management has attempted to acquire an emergency replacement for Furcal, who has been its best player this year. Assuming that doesn’t happen by Tuesday’s game with the Brewers, it is expected to purchase Luis Maza from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he is hitting .402, third in the Pacific Coast League.
Furcal did not fly to Milwaukee with the club on Monday, instead undergoing an MRI and receiving a cortisone injection in his sprained sacro-iliac joint. He was disabled retroactive to May 6, meaning he would be eligible to return on May 21, but with lower back injuries, there is no way to predict how long he will be out. He will begin rehab therapy on Wednesday.
Furcal, who suffered an almost identical injury last September, was said to be day to day, and wound up missing the final 12 games of the season. He’s already missed the past five games, the Dodgers losing the last four of them, while the offense has struggled with rookie Chin-lung Hu replacing Furcal at shortstop and Juan Pierre taking over the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Losing Furcal even for another nine days is a crushing blow to an offense that has no formidable force. He even leads the club with five home runs, along with a .366 average, 34 runs scored, 12 doubles, a .597 slugging percentage and a .448 on-base percentage.
The difference between a healthy and injured Furcal is best demonstrated by the fact that with a healthy Furcal in 2006, the Dodgers tied for the division lead. Furcal played injured the entire 2007 season and the Dodgers finished fourth.
* Bad news for the offense, obviously. As I outlined earlier, this offense has been running as Furcal does, and with him out now for 9 more days – at the very, very least – everyone else has to pick up the slack.
* Get ready to see a whole lot more Juan Pierre. Without our real leadoff hitter, there’s no way Joe’s going to pass up the chance to use JP at leadoff every single day. I’m serious; I’d be floored if Pierre gets even a single game off before Furcal’s return. I admit, we don’t really have another option that stands out to leadoff; but why not give Russell Martin a crack at it? He’s got the second-highest OBP of anyone besides Furcal, and it’s not like he’s a liability on the bases. But I can’t imagine Torre ever trying that. No, it’s going to be JP all the time, which also means:
* Get ready to see a whole lot less of Andre Ethier. Torre seems to have committed to Matt Kemp in RF, which is smart, as Kemp’s been very good. But he’s also committed to letting Andruw Jones play through his issues in CF, and since as we just discussed Pierre isn’t sitting, Ethier might only get a shot to play now when Jones gets a day off. Once a week? Maybe?
* Here’s what you need to know about Luis Maza: He turns 28 in a month and has yet to make his big league debut. Granted, he’s on a Tiffee-like tear at Vegas, (.402/.465/.528 is certainly nothing to sneeze at), but when he had a full season in Triple-A Rochester for the Twins in 2006 at age 26, he put up a .207/.355/.308 stinker. So who knows. He’s spent the majority of his minor league career at 2B (485 out of 688 games), but he’s also put in time at SS, 3B, and OF. He’s just a stopgap.
* Of course, calling up Maza means another roster move; he’s not on the 40-man roster. Might this be the end of the line for Eric Stults?
* Get ready to see what Chin-Lung Hu is made of. We know his glove is gold, but his .208/.296/.229 line, granted in limited play, is hardly overwhelming. He showed plenty of ability with the bat last year in the minors; now’s the time to show you’ve got it, Chin-Lung.
* Or don’t get ready to see what Hu is made of, if the line “Management has attempted to acquire an emergency replacement for Furcal” means anything. I’m somewhat surprised to hear this; Hu’s pretty highly rated and it’s worth it to at least take as a positive from this situation that we get an opportunity to see what he can do on an everyday basis. Who’s available at SS, anyway? Names that come to mind that have been on the block are Jack Wilson, Felipe Lopez, and Juan Uribe. None of those are that appealing, and they’re all expensive, and wouldn’t like going back to a backup position. Pass. Go with Hu. He might actually already be the best non-starting SS in the major leagues right now. Why would you want anyone else? I’m actually going to be pretty upset if they swing a deal for some veteran retread instead of letting Hu man the fort for a week or two.