Rafael Furcal nearing return from DL

ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal is tentatively scheduled to come off the 15-day disabled list before Sunday night's game with the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium, a move that probably means highly touted rookie Dee Gordon is headed back to the minor leagues, at least temporarily.

"We will make that decision on Sunday," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when asked what Furcal's return will mean for Gordon, who has started almost every game at shortstop since being promoted to the majors for the first time on June 6, two days after Furcal went onto the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. "It is a decision we will make when we have to make it. (General manager) Ned (Colletti) and I haven't really even talked about it at this point."

Barring a setback, Furcal will conclude his minor league rehabilitation assignment with advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night against High Desert. He is scheduled to take Saturday off, then, in the words of Mattingly, "be ready to rock and roll."

Furcal enters that final game having hit .316 (6-for-19) with a .409 on-base percentage in five games for the Quakes, with no extra-base hits. When he returned from his previous DL stint on May 22, he was forced to cut his rehab assignment short because of an injury to infielder Juan Uribe. Consequently, Furcal struggled at the plate and wound up hitting .225 between the two DL stints.

This time, Furcal wanted to make sure that he felt completely comfortable at the plate before returning, and the team could afford to wait for that because Gordon has performed reasonably well for a first-time big leaguer. He was hitting .243 entering Friday night's game with the Angels.

But Gordon is such an important prospect for the Dodgers that common sense suggests they will send him back to Triple-A Albuquerque to play every day rather than keeping him in the majors. Mattingly and Colletti had briefly discussed moving Furcal to second base when he returns so Gordon could stay -- something Furcal said he would be willing to do -- but that plan was quickly scrapped.

Meanwhile, catcher Rod Barajas, who has been on the 15-day DL since June 19 with a sprained right ankle, is tentatively slated to begin a two-day minor league rehab assignment on Sunday, although Mattingly said that could be pushed back a day or two. Barajas is eligible to be activated on Monday, but he isn't expected to come off the DL until at least Tuesday.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.