Notes: Furcal makes more progress

Notes: Furcal makes more progress

LOS ANGELES -- Rafael Furcal ran the bases on his healing sprained ankle before Monday's home opener and felt well enough to talk about a rehabilitation start for Inland Empire at Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday night.

Furcal, out since injuring the ankle in a March 22 collision with center fielder Jason Repko, was eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday. He ran from first to third for the initial time since being injured, appearing to favor his left leg only slightly.

"It felt pretty good," said Furcal. "I wasn't going 100 percent, but you don't go 100 in practice. Maybe 85 percent. It didn't hurt when my foot hit the bag, no problem, but I was a little bit afraid thinking that it was going to hurt. But it didn't."

Wilson Valdez started at shortstop for the third consecutive game Monday, but he remains on the bubble when Furcal is activated. Valdez, however, is out of options and the Dodgers would risk losing him to another club if they attempted to send him down to Triple-A. He also entered Monday's game batting .600 after consecutive three-hit games.

Tomko, finally: The wraps come off fifth starter Brett Tomko on Tuesday night.

The right-hander has pitched only two innings since March 27, and this will be his first regular-season start since June 23, when he suffered a strained oblique muscle. Tomko was disabled for five weeks, volunteered to return as a reliever, pitched effectively in that role except for a horrible stretch in New York and Chicago, then had to beat out Mark Hendrickson, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley this spring to get his starting job back.

"I've thought more about how long it's been since last year's start than I have about the time I've had off the last two weeks," said Tomko, who opened last season 5-1 as a starter. "It has been a long time since I started a real game. And that game, I pitched that last inning hurt and was throwing 80 [mph]. Maybe I'll try that tomorrow.

"I'm not worried about all that rest. I should be sharp. I'm not looking for any safety net. I've pitched on extra rest before. I've had eight and nine days off, like around the All-Star break. You just go out and pitch. When you get out there, you're not thinking about the calendar. I'll only be worried about the first batter. I'm excited to get out there."

Kuo healing: Kuo dropped out of the competition for Tomko's job when he strained a muscle in the back of his shoulder. The muscle is just below the rotator cuff, but it requires 100 percent healing or is likely to become inflamed again.

As a result, Kuo is only throwing on flat ground. He remained back in Vero Beach when the club left nearly two weeks ago and was reunited at home so he could continue his rehabilitation with the Major League training staff.

He played catch in the outfield before Monday's game, but is throwing only on flat ground, not off the mound, and that might continue for a while.

Brazoban takes another step: Reliever Yhency Brazoban, who underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction last April 18, was scheduled to pitch in his first game Monday in extended Spring Training in Vero Beach.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Brazoban will pitch two innings, take two or three days off, then do it again. Depending on the outcome, he could be in an Inland Empire game on a rehabilitation assignment this month. In the best-case scenario, Brazoban could be back with the Dodgers early next month.

When Honeycutt last saw Brazoban, the right-hander was throwing hard and effortlessly. He's been virtually setback-free in his recovery from a torn elbow ligament.

Who's in right? On Monday, it was Matt Kemp, as manager Grady Little stuck with the same lineup that had won the previous two games. Little has said he doesn't have a strict platoon there with Kemp and Andre Ethier, but acknowledges it's looked that way so far.

Little also went so far as the say that Kemp could win the job outright, with the obvious implication that anybody can win any job if their play deserves it.

"The players will dictate the playing time," Little said. "[Are they competing?] Why not? I think that's a good environment for the player. We'll decide on a day-to-day basis with the matchups of the opposing pitchers and go from there. A left-handed pitcher doesn't mean Kemp won't start a game. If something is working, we won't change it."

Bullpen briefs: Bullpen coach Dan Warthen had Hendrickson make about 20 pitches in the bullpen Sunday in San Francisco and Rudy Seanez do the same Monday morning. Hendrickson last pitched Opening Day a week ago, Seanez last pitched Wednesday.

"We call it touch-and-feel," said Warthen. "If you go more than two days without pitching in a game, I get them up there just to get the feel of it at about three-quarter speed. It helps them stay sharp, and they're still available to pitch in the game that day."

Coming up: Tomko (8-7, 4.73 in 2006) opposes Rodrigo Lopez (1-0. 1.29) Tuesday night. Tomko is 6-8 with a 4.05 ERA lifetime against Colorado and was 2-1 with a 4.58 ERA against the Rockies last year.

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