Furcal says weekend return possible

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal said Wednesday he could be ready to return to the active roster as soon as this weekend, without benefit of any additional minor-league rehabilitation time.

Furcal took a major step forward in his effort to come back from a strained left hamstring, running at full speed without feeling any discomfort for the first time.

"It was a good day," he said. "It feels much better. I feel a little bit stronger. I don't feel like I have something inside there moving around. If [Thursday] is another good day, then I think I will be back soon."

Furcal said he didn't think he needed another rehab game because he wouldn't be doing anything much different in that setting than he has been doing on the field each day at Dodger Stadium with trainer Stan Conte.

"We will do that for the next couple of days and then make a decision by the weekend on what we're going to do," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who spoke to the media about an hour before Furcal did and seemed to still be under the impression Furcal would do another rehab, albeit probably only for one game.

"I think that will be fine," Torre said. "The only thing is that our training staff needs to feel he has been tested sufficiently. I think that will be plenty."

Furcal injured his hamstring running out a double-play grounder in the first game of a doubleheader on April 27 at New York and hasn't played since. He originally was listed as day to day but was disabled a week later. He did a two-game rehab with high Single-A Inland Empire last week, playing six innings in each game, and was expected to be activated before Friday night's game at San Diego, but that didn't happen because he still was experiencing discomfort in the hamstring when he ran at full speed.

Monasterios odd man out

The sudden resurgence of the bullpen, which has a collective 0.78 ERA during the nine-game winning streak the team took into Wednesday night's game with San Diego, was good for the Dodgers. But it wasn't so good for rookie reliever Carlos Monasterios, who hadn't appeared in a game in eight days.

Torre said with the other, more experienced relievers having settled into somewhat regular roles, Monasterios is left with the long relief, or mop-up, job, meaning he will come in if a starter suffers a meltdown and leaves a game early and the Dodgers need innings, if it's a lopsided game or if it's an extra-innings game.

"Monasterios is the one left out in the cold right now," Torre said. "He is in a long role. He is getting his throwing in down [in the bullpen]. If we need somebody out of the bullpen early, it would be him."

Monasterios, a Rule 5 pick from Philadelphia who had never pitched above Double-A and had barely pitched above Single-A before this year, entered Monday with a 2.18 ERA in 11 appearances (one start). Torre said he didn't really consider Monasterios when the fifth spot in the rotation came open because Ramon Ortiz not only had more experience as a major league starter but also had demonstrated an ability to throw 80 or so pitches in a single appearance.

As for the rest of the bullpen, it all seems to be coming together now that closer Jonathan Broxton is finally getting regular save chances, former setup man George Sherrill finally seems to have found his missing mechanics and Hong-Chih Kuo and Ramon Troncoso appear to have settled into an interchangeable, lefty-righty combo for the seventh and eighth innings.

"That was a big part of our game last year, and it's sort of whole again," Torre said.

Manny concerns?

Torre said he was unconcerned with the fact that Manny Ramirez had two home runs in his first 90 plate appearances through Tuesday or the fact Ramirez had gone more than a month without hitting one -- that month also included a stint on the disabled list.

After all, Ramirez was hitting a cool .357, with a .478 on-base percentage, and he did have 19 RBIs, giving him 1,807 for his career and leaving him five short of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for 18th place on the all-time list.

"He is hitting the ball hard, but it just isn't going into the air," Torre said. "He killed a ball to right-center in Arizona [last week], but they had the roof open, and that made a big difference. Production is what we want. That is all I care about from him, is RBIs. He will hit home runs. But production, and having that experience at the plate, is important. He wouldn't be hitting .350, .360 if he was trying to hit home runs."

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.