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Marlins' Rafael Furcal makes season debut after being sidelined since 2012 because of injuries

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MIAMI - Sidelined for more than a year by injuries, Miami Marlins second baseman Rafael Furcal played for the first time this season Friday night.

And now that Furcal's healthy, manager Mike Redmond wants him in the lineup every day.

Furcal missed all of 2013 because of an elbow injury, and sat out the first 2 1/2 months of this season with hamstring and groin injuries. He was activated from the 60-day disabled list before Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and batted leadoff.

The 36-year-old Furcal spent nearly two months in the minors on a rehabilitation assignment that was interrupted twice when he aggravated his injuries.

"I'm excited to be here," the three-time All-Star said. "I'm waiting all year for this moment. I think I played in the minor leagues more than I had played in my career."

Furcal turned two double plays but went 0 for 6 in an 8-6, 13-inning loss to the Pirates.

The Marlins signed Furcal to a $3 million, one-year deal last off-season. Despite doubts about his durability, Redmond doesn't plan to coddle him.

"He has played in a lot of big games, and he represents stability," Redmond said. "You know what you're going to get out of him. Hopefully he'll continue to feel good and the health stuff is behind him and we can get a lot out of him these next few months."

Furcal has 314 career stolen bases and said he's ready to go full speed, even on the bases.

"My last four rehab games I stole four bases," he said. "I feel pretty good. If you're going to steal a base you've got to go full speed."

With Furcal batting leadoff, Christian Yelich dropped to the No. 2 spot for the Marlins, who began the weekend ranked second in the NL in runs. To ease the strain on Furcal's elbow, he'll play second base after spending almost his entire career at shortstop.

Furcal broke into the majors in 2000 and has been on nine playoff teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series championship team in 2011.

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