Cardinals acquire Rafael Furcal

Updated: August 1, 2011, 7:31 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal will be the St. Louis Cardinals' regular shortstop the rest of the way. Even if he wasn't in the lineup for his first game.

The 33-year-old Furcal arrived at Busch Stadium about five hours ahead of Sunday night's game against the Chicago Cubs and looking a bit bleary-eyed, so Daniel Descalso got the start at shortstop instead. Furcal, who did ground out as a pinch hitter in the Cardinals 6-3 loss, got virtually no sleep after waiving a no-trade clause to complete the deal with the Dodgers late Saturday night, and tended to his family before packing for an early flight to the Midwest.

Manager Tony La Russa said the decision had nothing to do with Furcal's puny .158 average (6-for-38) with 10 strikeouts and one RBI against Ryan Dempster, the Cubs' starter Sunday night.

"It had nothing to do with Dempster, it has everything to do with common sense," La Russa said. "He's got a lot of orienting to do here."

Tired or not, Furcal had plenty adrenaline after joining a contender, and said he was ready to go.

"I'm so excited," Furcal said. "Who wouldn't want to be in this situation? They're looking for a win and I'm looking for that, too."

St. Louis got the two-time All-Star without disturbing the 40-man roster. The Dodgers got outfielder Alex Castellanos, who was playing at Double-A Springfield.

"I think we've significantly improved our chance to win," La Russa said. "I think Rafael is a championship type player."

Other recent additions have already contributed. Edwin Jackson won his first start Friday after coming in a three-team deal that sent outfielder Colby Rasmus to Toronto and left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson already have made contributions.

Mozeliak said the moves hiked the Cardinals' payroll around $3 million, and kept the top prospects in the house.

"We didn't have to dip into that premium group of prospects we kept hearing about so we felt very fortunate," Mozeliak said.

Furcal may be a rental, with the Cardinals inheriting a $12 million club option based on incentives the player can't reach because he's missed so much time. For now, it feels like home.

As a gesture of respect, the Cardinals put Furcal's locker between Albert Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina.

"They put me in the middle, maybe they want to take care of me," Furcal said with a chuckle.

Getting Jackson allowed the Cardinals to return Kyle McClellan to a setup role where he thrived the past three seasons. Ryan Theriot is likely to share second base with left-handed hitting Skip Schumaker, and Schumaker was one of the team's best outfield arms before moving to second base in 2010.

"Every way you look at this, we just solidified a lot of the places we needed to get stronger," Mozeliak said. "And we did it rather quickly."

Furcal was batting just .197 in 37 games while struggling with injuries this season but has three multihit games the last week.

"I feel like more myself," Furcal said. "Everything is 100 percent and I feel pretty good."

Furcal replaces Theriot, who had been in a 2-for-38 slump before going 6-for-7 the last two games. Theriot subbed at second base on Friday night after pinch hitting and made his first start of the year at second base on Saturday.

The Cardinals also got Theriot from the Dodgers, acquiring him last winter. Theriot had been strictly a second baseman with Los Angeles due to concerns about his range on defense and he had 16 errors.

After the team closely monitored Furcal's play the last handful of games, Mozeliak was convinced he'd be a big upgrade defensively.

The Cardinals entered Sunday night 1½ games behind the Brewers. Furcal began the game with a career batting average of .283 with 298 stolen bases and has been considered one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.

Three of Furcal's last four seasons have been injury-shortened. He mentioned retirement when he was sidelined by a fractured left thumb in April and also has missed time with a strained left side. He played in 150 games in 2009, but in '08, '10 and '11 he has played a total of 170 games.

On Sunday, Furcal said he was joking when he mentioned retiring.

"I tried to play around because one of the guys kind of asked me 'What do you want to do now?' I said 'maybe retire,' but that's not going to happen. I can still play. I'm only 33."

Furcal has 26 career leadoff homers and is second on the Dodgers' career list with 14. He's been to the postseason eight times, five with the Braves and three with the Dodgers, and was 6 for 12 in Los Angeles' three-game division series sweep of the Cardinals in 2009.

"Raffy was a pivotal part of our success in 2006, 2008 and 2009," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "He's respected by his teammates and people around the game because of how hard he played day in and day out and his passion for being a Dodger."

His 43 homers as a shortstop are third in Dodgers history behind Pee Wee Reese (122) and Glenn Wright (44).

Castellanos, who turns 25 next week, was St. Louis' 10th-round draft pick in 2008 and was batting .319 with 19 homers, 62 RBIs and 10 steals in 93 games.

"We're getting a player who has shown a combination of power and speed," Colletti said. "We hope he can refine those abilities to a big league standard."

To make room for Furcal, right-handed reliever Eduardo Sanchez (shoulder) was moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and infielder Tyler Greene was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press