Furcal's first game back one to forget

CHICAGO -- Rafael Furcal waited almost a month to get back into a big league ballgame. The Dodgers waited almost a month to get their shortstop, leadoff man and offensive catalyst back into their lineup.

What happened on Tuesday night, though, was hardly worth the wait. Not for Furcal. And certainly not for the Dodgers, who lost 3-0 to the Chicago Cubs and a dominating Ryan Dempster before 34,749 at Wrigley Field.

To his credit, Furcal made no excuses. Also to his credit, he didn't duck responsibility, standing at his locker in the cramped visiting clubhouse here and fielding every question much more deftly than he had fielded some of the ground balls that had been hit his way, answering each one of them with some degree of verbal self-flagellation.

"I felt pretty good, but it wasn't a pretty day for me," Furcal said. "I am very disappointed with the way I played. The best thing is that I'm healthy and I didn't feel anything. But I just made bad things happen in the game."

It had been four weeks to the day since Furcal had strained his left hamstring running out a ground ball in a game at New York, and it had been three weeks since the front office had finally conceded the inevitable and placed him on the 15-day disabled list. Since then, Furcal had done a two-game rehabilitation stint with high Single-A Inland Empire, suffered the disappointment of one false start when it looked like he would return on May 14 at San Diego but wasn't able to do so and eventually played another game at extended spring training before he finally was activated about four hours before game time on Tuesday.

But in a game in which there was no margin for error, Furcal committed two of them, and misplayed a third ball that was ruled a hit. The two errors led to a pair of unearned runs, the first of which was the only run the Cubs would score against lefty Clayton Kershaw, who matched Dempster out for out until Furcal booted Ryan Theriot's grounder to his right to set the stage for the Cubs' first rally in the sixth inning.

With one out, Theriot stole second. He then came home when Derrek Lee lined a single to deep center field, giving the Cubs the only run they would need.

Furcal also bobbled a grounder up the middle by Dempster in the seventh. That was the one the official scorer felt was a clean single. And then, with Ramon Troncoso pitching in the eighth inning, Furcal fielded a grounder from Cubs rookie sensation Starlin Castro and threw it past first baseman James Loney. Lee followed with a two-run homer, putting the game on ice.

"I think if I make those three plays, the game would have been different," Furcal said.

Furcal also went 0-for-4 at the plate, striking out twice, flying out and popping up.

"At the plate, I felt good," he said. "But I was probably a little too strong, and I tried to overswing. I haven't seen many pitches, and this is the big leagues. Everybody here knows how to pitch. We'll see tomorrow."

Although Dodgers manager Joe Torre surmised that Furcal might have been rusty from the time off, Furcal rejected the notion that he could have used a longer rehab assignment to get more accustomed to fielding balls off the bat.

"I don't have to make excuses," Furcal said. "It was just a bad day."

Although Kershaw continued his recent run of brilliance, allowing four hits over six solid innings and shaving his ERA to 0.64 over his past four starts, he was charged with his first loss since May 4. Predictably, he didn't blame Furcal for that.

"Fookie has made so many great plays behind me," Kershaw said. "I have all the confidence in the world in him. Anytime your teammates make errors, you have to pick them up just like they do for you. I didn't do that, and that's all there is to it."

On another note

Jaime Jarrin, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame Spanish-language broadcaster, will become a Hall of Famer once more this weekend when he is inducted as part of the inaugural class for the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in La Romana, Dominican Republic. Jarrin will miss all of this weekend's three-game series at Colorado in order to attend the ceremony.
Jarrin, a native of Ecuador who pioneered Spanish-language broadcasting in baseball, has been calling Dodgers games for more than five decades.

Pitching plans

Rookie Carlos Monasterios will get the ball on Friday night at Colorado, the next time the Dodgers need a fifth starter. Monasterios, who has a 1.90 ERA in 12 total appearances this season, has made one previous start, on May 1 against Pittsburgh. Although he held the Pirates to a run on three hits in a game the Dodgers eventually won, Monasterios lasted just four innings, throwing 73 pitches.

The Dodgers are expected to replace Monasterios in the bullpen by promoting a pitcher from the minor leagues because they reduced their pitching staff to 11 when reliever George Sherrill was placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday. Lefty Scott Elbert would seem to be a strong candidate. Although he has struggled for much of the season at Triple-A Albuquerque, Elbert has been solid in his past three starts (four earned runs over 16 1/3 innings).

Looking ahead

Right-hander Chad Billingsley (5-2, 3.66), who has gone at least seven innings in each of his past two starts after failing to do so in any start since last July 5, will take the mound for the Dodgers in the middle game of the series on Wednesday night. Cubs lefty Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 3.09) is coming off his best start of the season when he pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings on Thursday night at Philadelphia, limiting the Phillies to three hits before leaving the game after being hit in the ring finger of his pitching hand by a line drive.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.