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06/26/08 8:27 PM ET

Injured Dodgers closer to coming back

Furcal has solid workout, to join others to rehab in Minors

LOS ANGELES -- Disabled shortstop Rafael Furcal passed a physical hurdle, as well as a psychological one, on Thursday morning.

During his most thorough workout since being sidelined by a bulging disk in his back more than six weeks ago, Furcal ranged far to his right for a ground ball off the bat of coach Larry Bowa's fungo, reached to backhand the ball, then twisted his body back to the left while uncorking a long throw to first base.

It was a play almost identical to the one Furcal pulled on Mets third baseman David Wright on May 5 that Furcal now believes caused his injury. He said he felt fine after Thursday's workout, which included running the rim of the infield three times, but a bigger test will be whether he can get out of bed on Friday.

After Thursday's game, Furcal said he still felt fine. If he's OK on Friday, he could begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week and might be back in the Dodgers lineup before the All-Star break.

Furcal could have some familiar company in the Minor Leagues. Jason Schmidt, a year out from shoulder surgery, will start on Saturday for Triple-A Las Vegas. Nomar Garciaparra reports progress with his calf problem and might start games next week. Outfielder Andruw Jones said he's running without pain and might join Furcal on an assignment next week.

"But he'll be playing before me," Jones said, reiterating his prediction of a return when play resumes after the All-Star break. "Me and Furky had a little race. We tied."

Reliever Scott Proctor, disabled on Wednesday, was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his sore elbow Thursday.

Disabled pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Brad Penny will throw Saturday. Kuroda was originally scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday, but manager Joe Torre said it was pushed back a day because he had a stiff neck unrelated to his original shoulder injury. Kuroda is making faster progress than Penny and could return next week.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.