Dodgers Walking Wounded Barely Walking

The Dodgers medical report, a state of the nation sort of thing only held oftener, casts doubt on the return of shortstop Rafael Furcal and makes it look like Jeff Kent may only be available for the playoffs, if that. Hong-Chi Kuo is still sidelined and is day to day.

Kuo, who came back after a 10-day break that would have (hopefully) eliminated his aching arm, is still on the shelf and will be for two or three more days. He has complained about stiffness in his triceps area and after four operations on that valuable arm, the Dodgers are taking every precaution.

Manage Joe Torre said there was no structural damage in the elbow, and acknowledged his value: "We couldn't be here without him, or Chan Ho [Park], for that matter," he said.

Brad Penny, The Dodgers' ace over the past two seasons, hasn't won a game since May 5th because of shoulder woes. He has received a shot of cortisone and they are waiting to see if that helps.

Infielder Nomar Garciaparra, who twisted his left knee in Pittsburgh has been taking ground balls and is apparently available as a pinch-hitter.

Second baseman Jeff Kent, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee 2 1/2 weeks ago, took batting practice and fielded ground balls in his first workout with the club since being injured. Best case scenario is that he could be added to a postseason roster for any round, at least to pinch-hit.

But you can hear the bulldog in Kent when he says, "I'll keep working to see if I get to a point where I'm able to play. I don't know when I'll be ready. We don't have many games to go until we have to potentially make a playoff roster. I still haven't run."

A miracle would be needed to get Rafael Furcal back into action this year. He has nerve pain in his right leg after back surgery. Torre is a bit more optimistic, saying it would be "a bonus" if e could contribute. If either happens, he could make it back in time for the playoffs.

Torre is mulling over the starting pitching rotation after the Giant series and a day off Monday. The current alignment would have Chad Billingsley pitching Tuesday, Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday and Greg Maddux on Thursday against the Padres, setting up a final three games in San Francisco with Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Lowe and Billingsley.

Catcher Russell Martin, who has caught 146 games this season, was given the night off, but the irrepressible Martin was taking infield grounders and apparently none the worse for wear after a jarring collision at home plate with the Pirates' Nyjer Morgan in the final game of the series.

And the almost-forgotten Gary Bennett is wearing a walking boot on his left foot was after undergoing shock-wave therapy for plantar fasciitis, an extremely painful injury that plagued outfielder Mike Marshall during his time with the Dodgers.

It makes one wonder how this club is in first place this late in the season.

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