Furcal activated after 4 1/2 months

Furcal activated after 4 1/2 months

LOS ANGELES -- Infielder Rafael Furcal was activated Wednesday after 4 1/2 months on the disabled list, and to make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers placed pitcher Brad Penny on the 60-day disabled list with persistent right shoulder trouble, eliminating the former World Series hero from any chance of postseason play.

Furcal, who went on the disabled list May 6 with a lower back injury that required July 3 surgery to repair a bulging disc, has five games to show the Dodgers whether he's ready to help for the first round of the playoffs, assuming they win the National League West.

With Penny still experiencing discomfort in the shoulder, general manager Ned Colletti said the staff concluded the right-hander would need to be shut down for four to six weeks for the condition to clear. Penny has been limited to one win since May 2 because of non-specific shoulder problems that are not believed to require surgery.

For Penny, this marks his third DL stint this season due to his injured right shoulder. He made two relief appearances after most recently returning from the DL on Sept. 10, allowing a combined three runs on four hits and a walk in one inning.

Conceivably, Penny's days with the Dodgers could be over. The club has a $9.25 million option on Penny for next year, or a $2 million buyout. He was a 16-game winner last year but is 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA.

Manager Joe Torre said Furcal, an upcoming free agent, is not being viewed as a starter at shortstop, where reclamation project Angel Berroa has taken over and pleasantly surprised with his solid defense and improving offense.

Furcal, who was off to the best start of his career hitting .366 before aggravating a back injury that surfaced late last season, is being viewed more as a backup infielder and switch-hitting bench player.

"We'd like a situation where he could get his feet wet without putting initial pressure on him," Torre said. "We have to go slowly and make sure we protect him as much as we can."

Furcal said he's able to run the bases with almost no discomfort from the lingering nerve sensations he was experiencing. He said, however, that he's most comfortable on defense. If the club feels Furcal is ready to help, it might mean there is no room for backup infielder Pablo Ozuna.

However, the health of Jeff Kent also is a factor. His left knee did not rebound well after a strenuous workout Sunday, so the medical corps will have him back off with the hope that he can make his first pinch-hit appearance over the weekend in San Francisco.

Like Furcal, Kent might not be ready for the National League Division Series but might be ready for the NL Championship Series. Keeping Kent for primarily pinch-hitting purposes would mean the club would also need another backup infielder versatile enough to play multiple positions, like Ozuna.

"We'll have to evaluate what our needs are," Torre said. "To keep a pinch-hitter only, you have to have enough flexibility in other areas. That's why we're taking a look at Ozuna. If we do win the division, we can sit and figure out what we can do."

The Dodgers also have backed off with key reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who has pitched only once in 2 1/2 weeks because of left triceps discomfort. Kuo said his arm feels fine, but instead of throwing off a mound Wednesday, he didn't throw at all. Like Kent, the hope is that Kuo can test the arm over the weekend, if not sooner.

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