Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has missed the Dodgers' last five games because of lower back pain, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday. The move is retroactive to May 6, meaning the earliest Furcal can be activated is May 21 for the final game of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium against Cincinnati.
Furcal's place on the active roster will be taken by utility infielder Luis Maza, whose contract was purchased from triple-A Las Vegas. Maza, a 27-year-old career minor leaguer, can play shortstop, second base, third base and the three outfield positions, providing the Dodgers with much-needed versatility.
Furcal, whose .366 batting average is third in the majors, didn't travel with the Dodgers to Milwaukee for a three-game series that starts today. He underwent an MRI exam Monday morning that showed he had a strained back. He will receive a cortisone shot today and start rehabilitation with team physical therapist Sue Falsone on Wednesday.
"He said he should be ready to come off [the DL] next week," said Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer.
Furcal said Sunday that the pain he felt in his lower back was similar to what he felt last September, when he had to sit out 12 games.
"This is the type of thing where it feels fine one day and it doesn't the next," he said.
With Furcal out of the lineup, the Dodgers have lost their last four games. They scored a combined two runs in the three games leading up to their series finale Sunday against the Houston Astros, which they lost.
Furcal's last game was on May 5, when the Dodgers beat the New York Mets, 5-1, to win for the ninth time in 10 games.
"It's difficult," Furcal said of being forced out of the lineup. "We were playing well."
Furcal's absence also troubled the Dodgers on defense. With Furcal and second baseman Jeff Kent resting Sunday, Manager Joe Torre started rookies Chin-lung Hu and Delwyn Young in the middle of an already young infield that included rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt and second-year first baseman James Loney. With no other infielders available, Torre said catcher Russell Martin was backup shortstop for the day.
The versatility of Maza should help remedy that problem.
The major league call-up is Maza's first. He spent eight years in the Minnesota Twins organization but was released at the end of the 2006 season. The Dodgers signed him in 2007. Maza entered this season a career .273 hitter, but has taken advantage of hitter-friendly Cashman Field in Las Vegas and is hitting .402 this season. He had a 19-game hitting streak from April 11 to May 3.
Jason Schmidt, who threw a 1-2-3 inning in his first minor league rehab start on Sunday, will throw a bullpen session in Milwaukee on Wednesday . . . James McDonald of double-A Jacksonville, who was the Dodgers' minor league pitcher of the year last season, was 1-0 in his two starts last week, giving up two earned runs in 13 innings and striking out 16.