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08/02/08 9:46 PM ET

Furcal hopes to return by Sept. 1

Shortstop says back feels good during visit with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, one month after undergoing back surgery for a bulging disk, was a pregame clubhouse visitor, indicating he was hopeful of returning when rosters expand Sept. 1, if not sooner.

"I feel a lot better than before," said Furcal, injured since May 6 after the best April of his career. "It doesn't bother me anymore."

Furcal has been undergoing physical therapy with API, the contracted clinic that specializes in sports rehab. He said he won't begin actual baseball activity for two weeks but has been working on stretching and strengthening that duplicate baseball motions.

"I don't want to come back and feel anything after I play awhile," Furcal said. "I want to get everything to feel all right, 100 percent. Back surgery is a bad thing and I don't want to rush."

However, the Dodgers' offense hasn't been the same without him at the top of the lineup. In addition, Furcal is eligible for free agency. He wants to show, and clubs need to see, that he is healthy before the free-agency season begins.

The Dodgers were 18-14 in games started by Furcal and are 36-41 without him.

"They say it's going well in Arizona," manager Joe Torre said. "For us to count on him would be wrong. But I've gotten the message, don't discount him coming back."

One of the first to greet Furcal was his newest teammate, Manny Ramirez.

"We never played on the same team, but Manny is one of the heroes in the Dominican," Furcal said. "We needed some guy like him."

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