Rafael Furcal looked as relief as he did pleased when talking about how he suddenly found his rhythm at the plate.
Furcal had little interest in revisiting the past. Whatever caused him to have an awful spring was behind him. He didn’t seek an explanation. That he was free of it was enough for him.
“The best thing about spring training is that it’s over,” Furcal said.
The Dodgers’ leadoff hitter and starting shortstop is batting .381 through five games. He has reached based eight times in the last two games, including four times Saturday night against the Florida Marlins. He was two for five with a double and a run Saturday.
“I’m getting my timing back,” he said.
Furcal credited the time he has spent in the batting cages with hitting coach Don Mattingly, who has worked with him on letting the ball travel deeper before taking a hack at it.
“He’s not trying to pull it,” Manager Joe Torre said.
On the basepaths, he’s also looked like the Furcal of old, scoring six runs and stealing three bases.
“I feel right now the way I did in my first year,” he said. “My legs feel healthy. I feel looser right now. It’s fun.”
Tentative because of the back operation he underwent in 2008, Furcal stole only 12 bases last season, down from his career best of 46 with the Atlanta Braves in 2005 and 37 with the Dodgers in 2006.
“I know that when I get on base, my teammates are getting better pitches to hit,” he said.
Welcome to the bigs
A.J. Ellis was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque to replace Brad Ausmus, who was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a pinch nerve in his back.
Ellis’ first assignment: catch knuckleballer Charlie Haeger in the series finale Sunday.
Ellis caught Haeger in Albuquerque last year and twice this spring training.
“It was pretty uneventful,” Ellis said of the two spring-training games. “But you have to stay humble.”
Ellis said he would use the large catcher’s mitt that Haeger carries around with him at all times.
Until Saturday, Ausmus had never spent time on the disabled in his 17-year career. The move is retroactive to Friday.
Ausmus, who turns 41 next week, on Thursday in Pittsburgh moved into a tie for seventh place with former Dodger AL Lopez on the all-time games-caught list with 1,918.
But late in that game, Ausmus said he noticed that he had pain in his left hip. He had trouble sleeping that night and woke up the next morning to discover that his left foot was numb.
He was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his lower back by the training staff.
Ausmus said that this problem is unrelated to the lower-back pain he had in spring training.
Ausmus said he wasn’t given a timetable for his return, but added, “I’m planning on just the 15 days.”
When Manny Ramirez became the 91st major league player to record 2,500 hits, he did so in style