Cardinals acquire Furcal from Dodgers for prospect

Posted July 31, 2011, at 8:35 p.m.
Last modified July 31, 2011, at 9:01 p.m.

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 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 t he 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 Rzepcynzki 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 multi-hit 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.

Rockies-Indians trade final

CLEVELAND — Ubaldo Jimenez has passed his physical, completing a trade that sends him from the Colorado Rockies to the Cleveland Indians.

After sending four minor leaguers, including their top two prime pitching prospects, to the Rockies for Jimenez, the Indians had an unusually long wait for it to become official Sunday. There was plenty of time for buyer’s remorse.

Then the right-hander passed a series of tests the Indians insisted upon.

“This was a rare and unique opportunity, especially in our market, which comes along few and far between,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “We requested the physical, the Rockies complied and if we were not happy — there was no deal.”

Antonetti got the results he wanted to hear a half hour before the 4 p.m. EDT trade deadline. That was about four hours after Jimenez went to visit doctors in Goodyear, Ariz., site of the Indians’ training facility.

The Indians were nervous as the deal was consummated on Saturday night. Jimenez started for Colorado in San Diego and the Indians watched as the pitcher they coveted so much gave up four runs in one inning before being lifted.

“There was a lot of anxiety and he didn’t exactly have a 1-2-3 inning,” Antonetti said, though the first-year GM wouldn’t second-guess the Rockies’ decision.

“In the end, we’re happy with the result,” he said.

Colorado gets minor league right-handers Alex White and Joe Gardner, first baseman Matt McBride and a player to be named, expected to be lefty Drew Pomeranz. White and Pomeranz were considered the top two pitching prospects in Cleveland’s organization. They were Cleveland’s No. 1 draft picks in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

“For no other player (discussed) would we have included both,” Antonetti said, estimating that about 75 players were mentioned in various talks with numerous teams.

“It was painful for us (to trade prized prospects), but we decided the time was right. We’re a better team than we were,” he said.

Antonetti kept trying to land a much-needed hitter and said he will continue to explore ways of trying to add offense to a club that has struggled to score for weeks.

“We worked all the way up to the deadline,” he said. “To some degree there is (disappointment), but we’re still confident we can be bolstered by the return of two prominent players.”

Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the Indians’ top hitter the past two season, could return from a broken left thumb in mid-August. Former All-Star center fielder Grady Sizemore is recovering from hernia surgery, rehabbing a sore right knee and could provide a lift a little later.

Until then, Jimenez will be counted upon to help Cleveland overtake first-place Detroit in the AL Central. A 5-2 loss to Kansas City dropped the Indians 2½ games back. They are 1½ games ahead of the Chicago White Sox and four ahead of Minnesota.

“We’re happy to add a guy who can give us an opportunity to win every five days,” manager Manny Acta said. “Plus, he’s a quality human being, right for us in the clubhouse, a well-educated guy and classy.”

Jimenez is expected to join the Indians in Boston, but likely will not pitch until they open a series in Texas on Friday. To clear room on their 40-man roster, the Indians activated right-hander Mitch Talbot from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.

Acta wants Jimenez to have time to settle his personal life after the deal and not worry about having to pitch right away. He pointed out that the pitcher went from San Diego to Arizona for his physical, returned home to his family in Denver, then will go to Boston and Texas before even getting to Cleveland.

The Indians don’t seem concerned about recent reports that Jimenez, 19-8 a year ago, has seen his velocity drop and his ERA rise this year. He’s 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts. He had a 2.88 ERA in 2010.

“We’ve clocked him at 98 (mph) and his fastball is sitting at 93, 94,” Antonetti said. “That’s still fast.”

A move to the AL, where use of the designated hitter leads to more offense, isn’t daunting to the Indians.

“There’s always some adjustment, coming from the NL,” Antonetti said. “His stuff transfers anywhere.”

Important to the Indians is having contract control over the 27-year-old Jimenez until 2013 with a possible option for 2014. In recent years, the club has had to peddle consecutive Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee as well as star catcher Victor Martinez before they got close to becoming free agents.

“We would not have made the deal if there was lesser control,” Antonetti said. “This wasn’t just about being better for a half season but for at least 2½ seasons.”

An odd injury to McBride, who fouled a ball off home plate and into his face on Friday before a minor league game never was a sticking point to the deal, according to Antonetti.

“It really wasn’t until Matt blew his nose this morning and had some blood,” Antonetti said. “We kept the Rockies apprised and they were OK with everything.”

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