Garciaparra on 51s’ short list

It wasn’t as dramatic as Tiger Woods limping on one good knee to the U.S. Open title, but a still-injured Nomar Garciaparra made an important return to the diamond Tuesday.

He was back in his once-familiar shortstop position on a rehabilitation assignment with the 51s, and back in the all-too-familiar spot of having to deal with another injury.

It was, though, a significant step back as the Los Angeles Dodgers infielder recovers from a strained left calf, but where the following steps lead is anyone’s guess.

“The uncertainty is still there,” Garciaparra said before the 51s’ 5-2 victory over the Tacoma Rainiers at Cashman Field.

Garciaparra will spend this week with the 51s. He received two at-bats Tuesday, striking out in the first one and hitting a two-run homer to left field in the second at-bat. Garciaparra’s will get three at-bats tonight and four Thursday before deciding Friday’s schedule.

“Especially when you’re an infielder, quick moves and any type of left-right action, charging balls, going back on popups, it’s an injury that you’ve got to be careful with,” 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “He’s in the right direction, and hopefully these games here will help him to continue to improve.”

After this series, Garciaparra heads back to the Dodgers to end his stay on the 60-day disabled list.

What happens in Los Angeles is uncertain because although “a blood flow problem” was found to be the key to his troubles, fixing it is another matter.

Will Garciaparra be a major part of the Dodgers’ lineup? Or will he have to shut it down at some point?

“We’ll see how it goes, see how I feel,” Garciaparra said. “If I don’t injure it again, I’ll play the rest of the year.”

It has been a tough five-year run of injuries for Garciaparra, who is on his eighth trip to the disabled list in that stretch.

Garciaparra said the flow problem with his calf also has been a factor with his other injuries.

“There’s a bigger issue,” Garciaparra said. “To resolve that, they don’t know what might need to be done. But they know it’s there.”

The Dodgers not only want Garciaparra back, they want him back at shortstop.

A former six-time All-Star, Garciaparra has not played short in his three seasons with the Dodgers.

But with Rafael Furcal out with a back injury, the Dodgers need Garciaparra to play shortstop.

“You can’t go off and jump right in,” Garciaparra said. “You need that time to adjust to angles and the ball coming at you in a different way.”

* NOTES — 51s left-hander Eric Stults, who was scheduled to start Thursday, was called up by the Dodgers and is expected to start Thursday at the Cincinnati Reds. …

Bundy said the firing of New York Mets manager Willie Randolph is a reminder that baseball is more than a game.

He was happy for friend Jerry Manuel, who takes over the Mets.

“This is a tough business, and the bottom line is the word business,” Bundy said. “Whether they handled it right or the timing of it or whatever, that’s for them to defend or say. I feel good for the man that’s taking over.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914.

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