|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
PHOENIX -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly took exception on Sunday morning with questions after Saturday's loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks about the continued lack of production from veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"Fookie still has bat speed," Mattingly said. "We saw (New York Mets All-Star outfielder) Carlos Beltran struggling in the middle of last season, and everybody was ready to get rid of him, saying he can't do this and he can't do that. But (Dodgers hitting coach Jeff Pentland) and I watched him, and he still had bat speed. All of a sudden, he got it going. Well, Fookie still has bat speed. I know he is disappointed because he is being counted on so much, but he has been hurt so much.
"One thing I can't get away from is that this guy plays with energy every time out. There is no doubt that he is trying. He may not be the player he was five or six years ago, but that doesn't mean he can't play."
Furcal, who Mattingly continues to insist has to contribute offensively in order for the Dodgers to be successful, entered Sunday's series finale with the Diamondbacks hitting .170 for the season. He was 3-for-34 with no extra-base hits since returning on July 3 from his most recent disabled list stint, and for now at least, he has been replaced in the leadoff spot by speedy left fielder Tony Gwynn.
Furcal was out of the lineup on Sunday, but Mattingly insisted that was merely because of his desire to rest Furcal.
"There is something about hitting that when you lose confidence, it's not good," Mattingly said. "When you go through a period of time where you're not squaring up balls, your confidence isn't going to be high. We can talk to him all we want to, but it's a matter of him squaring some balls up in a game and getting his feel and his confidence back and getting on a roll again."Furcal still is having quality at-bats, including a bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning Saturday night that was followed by an eight-pitch duel with Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy in the seventh before Furcal flied to right.
"I can only control the bat in my hand," Furcal said Saturday. "I don't feel so bad. I'm not getting hits, but I'm seeing the ball pretty good and I'm not swinging at bad pitches. They're playing different behind me (defensively). I can't control where the ball goes."
Still, given that Furcal's primary job offensively is to get on base, and given that his on-base percentage sits at .217, he finds it hard to be content with the level of production he is providing the Dodgers.
"It's very tough for me, especially when we lost a game (by one run)," he said. "I think it's my fault because if I had been on base more, I think we would have had a great chance to score more runs."
Mattingly said Furcal is still playing defense close to as well as he ever has, and he still believes Furcal will find himself at the plate.
"If you see bat speed, you see a chance," Mattingly said. "Usually, when you see Fookie and he is struggling, he is trying too hard. That is what you love, is that he is out there trying."Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.