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Furcal in pain after rehab start

Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- Nearly two months after going on the disabled list and two days after making his first minor league rehab start, Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal is right back where he started -- in pain because of his back and in doubt as to when he will play again.

Furcal went four innings at shortstop for triple-A Las Vegas on Monday, doubling and driving in a run in three at-bats in his first game since May 5. But when he woke Tuesday with discomfort, he was immediately called back to Los Angeles where he will be examined today by Dr. Robert Watkins.

“Obviously it’s not good news,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.

“He felt so good about himself, with this exercise program he was on. I’m sure for him it’s really frustrating.”

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Furcal, who missed the final two weeks last season with a sore back, played just 32 games this year before going to the sidelines with the same problem. He was leading the team in several categories, including average (.366) and runs (34), and the Dodgers were four games above .500 when he went out.

But they have gone 21-30 since then, averaging less than 3.3 runs a game.

Nomar Garciaparra, who is also on rehab assignment at Las Vegas with a sore calf, replaced Furcal at shortstop and went two for three and scored twice Tuesday. Barring a setback, he could be with the Dodgers this weekend in San Francisco. Andruw Jones, who had knee surgery in May, joined Garciaparra in the 51s’ lineup and went three for three with two runs batted in.

Ready to pitch in

Hiroki Kuroda is expected to come off the disabled list and make his first start since June 12 tonight, and Brad Penny, who threw 50 pitches to hitters in a three-inning simulated game at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, is on track to rejoin the rotation Saturday in San Francisco.

And Jason Schmidt, who hasn’t pitched for the Dodgers in more than a year, is scheduled to throw 60 pitches for Las Vegas on Thursday and could rejoin the team about the end of July.

Dominican signings

Today is the first day clubs can sign international free agents who will turn 16 after Aug. 1, and the Dodgers are hopeful of reaching terms with at least a half-dozen prospects in the Dominican Republic, said Ralph Avila, the team’s advisor of Latin American scouting and player development.

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“We’ve got seven kids we really like,” Avila said.

The Dodgers have already signed one Dominican teenager, landing 16-year-old pitcher Jose Morillo, whose fastball currently is about 90 mph. Avila projects him to throw harder as he grows.

Quintero hurt

The Astros lost starting catcher Humberto Quintero in the second inning when Dodgers shortstop Luis Maza hit him on the head with his backswing after hitting a fly ball to right.

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Quintero, who played against fellow Venezuelan Maza numerous times in that country’s winter league, lay on the ground behind home plate for several minutes before he was helped to the clubhouse. Doctors said he had sustained a concussion and he was sent to the Methodist Hospital for a CT scan, which was negative.

Quintero remained hospitalized overnight and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game.

Brad Ausmus took Quintero’s place in the Houston lineup Tuesday and triple-A catcher J.R. Towles will be called up to take his place on the roster today.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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