LOS ANGELES -- When the season started, it would have been unthinkable for the Dodgers to be in first place without closer Takashi Saito, Opening Day starter Brad Penny, leadoff man Rafael Furcal and cleanup hitter Jeff Kent.
On Sunday, there was good news on each as they attempt to heal from injuries in time to help the club finish in first place.
Saito, on the shelf since July 13 with a torn elbow ligament, faced batters for the first time on Sunday morning, throwing 16 pitches in a simulated game, then throwing a handful of sliders in the bullpen. Saito threw all of his pitches with no discomfort, and manager Joe Torre said the breaking balls were "surprisingly sharp." Saito will take two days off, throw in another simulated game on Wednesday, take two more days off, then might be ready for game action.
"To sum it up in one word, it was very good," said Saito. "My fastball was running, and my breaking balls were really crisp, except the slider. I haven't had time to work on my slider, so it was sort of floating up there. It didn't have that much rotation. I've overcome all the stiffness and pain with the elbow. I'm more concerned about my mechanics -- the coordination of my body and my leg and my arm movement -- so that's what I'm working on right now."
Penny, on the disabled list twice since June 15 with shoulder stiffness, came out of his Friday bullpen session with no problems and is scheduled to face hitters in a simulated game on Monday. He is scheduled to take three days off, face hitters again on Friday in Denver and might be ready for a game at the end of the 10-game trip that starts on Monday night.
"No reason he wouldn't be able to pitch an inning or two on the trip," said Torre.
Furcal, on the DL since May 6 with a bulging disk that required surgery, went through his most aggressive workout since returning from an Arizona rehabilitation assignment. He took ground balls and ran the bases. He might be eased into a game at the end of the trip, although expectations are modest because of the severity of the injury, the time off and the fact that he is embarking on the equivalent of a spring camp.
"This was a good day for me," said Furcal. "We'll see how I feel tomorrow. I've been a little afraid of running, because that's what hurt the most. I've been going slower, because I don't want to go back. But I feel much better than before the surgery. Every day it feels better."
Kent, who underwent left knee surgery on Tuesday, continued his rehabilitation in the weight room and, along with others, will make the trip to continue receiving treatment.
Additionally, catcher Gary Bennett this week will undergo sonic shock therapy on his foot to break up plantar fasciitis that has kept him on the disabled list since May 19.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.