Notes: Back still bothering Furcal

Notes: Back still bothering Furcal

DENVER -- Rafael Furcal said the back injury that has sidelined him at crunch time is the fitting capper to an injury-marred season that began on the disabled list with a sprained ankle that never fully healed and remains swollen six months later.

Furcal was out of the lineup on Thursday for the third consecutive game with lower back stiffness. He said he first felt a twinge on the third of his four stolen bases on Saturday against Arizona when his elbow jammed into the ground on a head-first slide. He played with some discomfort on Sunday, but tried to ignore it, felt worse on the flight to Denver and finally could go no further when he was removed from Tuesday's day game against the Rockies in the seventh inning.

"I want to play as fast as possible, no matter if we get eliminated," said Furcal. "But I don't think the way I would play now would help the team. I can't bend and I can't swing the bat. It's getting better, but I can't make quick moves.

"It's a bad year for me, the worst except for 2001, when I hurt my shoulder, but that was different. This time I come to the park every day hoping to play, but I'm not 100 percent. It's like a muscle spasm."

Manager Grady Little started Tony Abreu at shortstop on Thursday batting second, with Juan Pierre in the leadoff spot. He also gave Nomar Garciaparra the day off after a night game. Garciaparra, nursing a tender calf muscle that put him on the disabled list last month, has not started in three consecutive games since early August.

Honeycutt on Loaiza: Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Esteban Loaiza had a light bullpen session on Wednesday in preparation for his Friday night start against Arizona, but there was nothing in particular addressed that would solve the right-hander's sudden wildness. Loaiza walked seven in his last start on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.

"He's looked at some tapes of his big season with Washington, and there's a little drifting on the way up, but nothing major," said Honeycutt. "He says he's fine when I address that, and I take his word on it."

Of course, health is an obvious possible explanation for Loaiza, who spent the first four months on the disabled list this season, first with a protruding disk in his neck, then with arthroscopic knee surgery. He made four rehab starts, then went at least seven innings in two starts for Oakland when the Dodgers claimed him off waivers from the A's.

Loaiza had a Major League fastball that year with Washington, but he hasn't shown it with the Dodgers.

"He's not a power guy, per se" said Honeycutt. "I think we've got what we're seeing velocity-wise, although I thought in his first game with us in Chicago we got more consistent velocity."

Honeycutt suspects Loaiza is going through something similar to a dead-arm stage at the end of Spring Training.

"He's been a good pitcher. He knows how to pitch with what he's got and he's going to give us what he can," he said.

Proctor tireless: There were suggestions that the Yankees dealt Scott Proctor to the Dodgers only after using him up, but in the season's waning days, Proctor seems to be getting even stronger.

At least, he's more effective. The right-handed reliever has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 1/3 innings dating back to Aug. 24. He has 10 strikeouts and allowed only five hits in his last 8 1/3 innings. As a Dodger, he's 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA.

Broxton follow up: The Dodgers are convinced that Jonathan Broxton's arm, which he described as "sore" after allowing a game-losing homer to Brad Hawpe on Wednesday night, is tired from 80 appearances -- but not injured.

"That's a September thing, and it comes along with being 23 years old when you're in as many games as he's been in," said Little. "It happens to everyone, at some time or another."

Little said Broxton would be given "a couple of days off."

Said Honeycutt: "Most of Broxton's mistakes have been breaking balls. This is the time of year when the guys you depend on have a heck of a workload, and there's going to be some days, either mentally or physically, that you feel better or worse than other days."

Coming up: Loaiza (1-2) opposes Arizona's Livan Hernandez (10-10, 4.86) in Friday night's opener of a three-game series.

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