SAN DIEGO -- Considering what he's been through, the Dodgers took it as a good sign that Rafael Furcal was one of the batters facing Takashi Saito in Wednesday's simulated game.
In the process, though, it was clear that Furcal isn't nearly as close to helping the Dodgers as is Saito, who will be activated Saturday.
Furcal, the shortstop and leadoff hitter who hasn't played since rupturing a disk in his back in May and undergoing surgery, was overmatched by Saito, and the best that he could say afterward was that he felt no pain.
"I felt like I was in slow motion, and he wasn't," said Furcal. "It's tough. I feel like I need more time. It's not frustrating. I haven't played for four months. I just have to get a little better every day."
Like Saito, Furcal does not have the benefit of a Minor League rehab assignment because that season is over. While his recovery from surgery is complete, he's trying to cram through the equivalent of a Spring Training.
"Just the fact he was willing to do it was good," said manager Joe Torre. "Hitting never bothered him. He's probably a week away [from playing], without setbacks. We'll throw him out there for maybe five innings, once he's convinced there are no limitations. He's doing all the baseball stuff."
Furcal said his baseball activities have been slowed by a tight hamstring, and Torre said he wasn't sure whether Furcal will be able to help the club if it makes the postseason.
"He'll be the toughest call," Torre said. "Even if he's ready, he's been away so long, can you expect him to go out every day, every inning? We need him around, active or not. He'll probably be the very last thing we know. It's not about his back, it's about his conditioning; all the stuff you do in Spring Training. But I'd rather have tough decisions that beat the bushes to find people to fill positions."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.