The Dodgers are expected to call up prized pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw from double-A Jacksonville, and he could start Sunday afternoon against the St. Louis Cardinals.
A major league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because Kershaw had not been told of his call-up as of Friday evening, confirmed the move. An official announcement is expected today.
When Kershaw would make his big league debut has been a subject of considerable speculation since spring training, when the 20-year-old left-hander allowed only one run and struck out 19 in 14 innings after being promoted from minor league camp.
A first-round draft pick two years ago, Kershaw has been kept on a strict pitch count at Jacksonville, where he is 0-3 with a 2.28 earned-run average and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. In his last outing Thursday he pitched just an inning -- retiring the side in order, striking out two -- before being pulled under orders from the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have been without a permanent fifth starter all season. On Friday, however, they began a streak of 17 games in as many days, meaning they'll need a fifth starter three times before their next scheduled day off June 9.
And calling up Kershaw this weekend allows him to make his Dodgers debut before a supportive crowd while giving scheduled Sunday starter Chad Billingsley an extra day's rest.
Billingsley pitched well in his last two starts, but threw more than 100 pitches each time.
Rafael Furcal was not activated from the disabled list as expected Friday and his sore back could cause him to miss at least part of the Dodgers' upcoming trip to Chicago and New York.
"He said he woke up [Thursday] morning and it was a little achy," Manager Joe Torre said of Furcal, who was not available for comment. "He was doing so well. I don't think he's gone all the way back to square one but this certainly is a setback."
Furcal was hitting a team-high .366 and ranked among the National League leaders in several offensive categories before being sidelined May 6.
"He's obviously disappointed," Torre said. "But there's not much you can do."
Center fielder Andruw Jones, who hasn't started since Sunday because of partially torn cartilage in his right knee, ran and performed agility drills on the Dodgers' off-day Thursday and said the swelling in his knee has subsided. But Jones hasn't ruled out the possibility of surgery.
"If [I] go play and it's really irritated and swells up again and gets . . . to where I can't play with it, we're just going to go ahead and shut it down and get it done," Jones said. "You just kind of have to wait and see. When you start playing you don't know what's going to happen."
Torre said he plans to ease Jones back into the lineup slowly, using him as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement this weekend, then starting him on the seven-game trip that begins Monday.
Jones, who is hitting .167 with a team-high 44 strikeouts, said the knee has been bothering him for some time but didn't blame that for his slow start.
"I don't make excuses," he said. "It's not why I had a bad season so far. Could it have had an effect? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm just not a making-excuse guy."
Right-hander Jason Schmidt, who returned to Phoenix to attend to a family matter, reportedly threw a bullpen session in Arizona and is expected to make another rehab start Monday for San Bernardino of the California League. . . . Right-hander Esteban Loaiza, out since May 5 because of a sore shoulder, also threw a bullpen session Friday at Dodger Stadium and is expected to make a minor league start Monday as well.