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Dodgers eyeing post-All-Star returns

Dodgers eyeing post-All-Star returns

LOS ANGELES -- There was cautious optimism on Friday that several of the Dodgers' injured players will return after the All-Star break.

That's what shortstop Rafael Furcal (bulging back disk) and outfielder Andruw Jones (knee surgery) said. Infielder Nomar Garciaparra said he will take a week off from baseball activities to try to break up scar tissue in his calf, but if that goes well, he could be back for the second half.

Injured starting pitchers Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda are scheduled to begin playing catch with their tender right shoulders before Saturday's game, while Jason Schmidt will throw a bullpen session. Kuroda had an injection in his shoulder, and the hope is he'll miss only one start. Penny did not have an injection and might be out longer.

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Schmidt, who had career-threatening shoulder surgery one year ago Friday, said he has felt much better over the past week after suffering yet another setback in his recovery.

Furcal, who has missed 41 games, said he is "90 percent (sure) -- no surgery," although the possibility hasn't been ruled out. If the conservative treatment he is currently receiving doesn't resolve the pain, surgery that would put him out for the season would be the likely alternative.

Furcal aggravated his condition making a twisting defensive play, but he said the current hurdle he must clear is running, because the pounding inflames the nerve where the disk is bulging.

"I'm getting closer," he said. "I think I might be ready to play before the All-Star break. The big thing is running. I did some jogging and it started to bother me. Next week, I'll try doing that stuff. Today, I did a little bit and it didn't bother me."

Jones said he also believes he'll be ready after the break. He ran aggressively with sharp cuts Friday, then took batting practice.

"I think the All-Star break is about right," said Jones, who has missed 26 games. "I want to make sure it doesn't bother me the day after."

Garciaparra met with a physical therapist in Boston this week and is convinced he has a condition where his body manufactures excess scar tissue while trying to accommodate healing. He felt signs that the calf muscle might tear again while in a one-game Minor League assignment earlier this week. He has been shut down for a week's worth of aggressively breaking down the scar tissue, then will resume baseball activity.

While the laundry list of injuries has been accompanied by the typical grumblings behind the scenes about players who aren't playing, manager Joe Torre threw himself under the bus for sending Kuroda out to get whacked in last week's loss in San Diego.

"If I inquired more, I would have known sooner," Torre said of Kuroda's discomfort. "It was my wrongdoing. I could have asked more questions. It's me. I need to. I didn't ask enough questions."

Kuroda situation, as well as Torre's comments, are curious. Kuroda threw a complete game shutout June 6, but in his next start June 12 lost velocity and control. He was asked through an interpreter after that game if there was anything physically wrong, and he said, "No."

But after a bullpen session Sunday, he went to Torre and said he was sore and has been for weeks. On Friday, Kuroda told the same reporters that he had been hurting for three weeks. Kuroda has taken treatment by club trainers since Spring Training, and it's almost inconceivable that Torre would not be aware of it.

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

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