Rafael Furcal closer to rehab

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 4 with a strained left oblique, took a major step forward in his recovery on Monday, fielding ground balls, throwing across the diamond at full strength and taking right-handed batting practice without discomfort.

If Furcal is comfortable taking left-handed batting practice by the end of the week, he will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment on Monday.

"He took some soft-toss (left-handed), but he wasn't 100 percent yet,'' Dodgers medical services director Stan Conte said. "We're shooting for a rehab assignment when we leave to go on the road. That is what I'm hoping for."

It isn't entirely clear where Furcal will fit when he returns. Rookie sensation Dee Gordon, who was called up for the first time to replace Furcal at shortstop, is hitting .298 out of Furcal's customary leadoff spot, and Furcal has proven to have difficulty staying healthy when he plays every day.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.