Rafael Furcal said the pain in his surgically repaired lower back has diminished to a point where he is no longer hesitant about venturing onto the field.
"I'm ready for however they want to use me," Furcal said, adding that the only physical discomfort he's experiencing these days is some mild tightness in his hamstrings.
Manager Joe Torre said he wanted to give Furcal "a little taste" on the field some time this week. Because Furcal hasn't played in more than four months, Torre said he didn't see him being a nine-inning player again this season.
"I don't have a problem with that," Furcal said.
Furcal admitted that he has wondered what kind of season he could have had, particularly because of the Dodgers' acquisition of Manny Ramirez.
"Of course I think about that," said Furcal, who was hitting .366 when he was injured. "Playing with someone the caliber of Manny Ramirez could do a lot for you. I think it would've been my best season."
Furcal, who will be a free agent this winter, was philosophical when asked about his predicament.
"You can't question what God does," he said. "I had one of my best starts, I felt great physically and mentally, but only God knows why I had to get hurt."
Though Dodgers owner Frank McCourt praised Ramirez and General Manager Ned Colletti for the roles they've played in the team's playoff push, he refused to discuss the chances of either of them being back next season.
Asked about Colletti's job performance, McCourt said, "I think everybody's doing fine."
McCourt said he wanted the focus to remain on the team and its on-field performance. Told that removing the cloud of uncertainty lingering over Colletti's head could help that happen, McCourt responded, "It's your prerogative and everybody in the media's prerogative . . . to debate these issues. That doesn't mean I should. . . . By addressing it, I would create a distraction."
McCourt acknowledged that his team needed a player of Ramirez's caliber, but was vague when asked if he would try to re-sign him.
"I'll talk to you in the off-season about it," he said.
Lowe in line for Game 1
Derek Lowe will take his next turn in the rotation Friday in San Francisco instead of Saturday, putting him in line to pitch the first game of the NL division series the next Wednesday. Because the Dodgers were off Monday, Lowe will be pitching Friday on regular four days' rest.
Torre denied that he switched Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda's turns in the rotation with the playoffs in mind, claiming he made the move because sinkerball-throwing Lowe felt more comfortable pitching on regular rest.
Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch the regular-season finale Sunday, but he could be skipped if the Dodgers have clinched the NL West title by then.
Hong-Chih Kuo played catch and said his ailing left elbow is responding well to treatment, but admitted that he didn't know if he would be able to pitch in the postseason. Kuo, who has undergone four elbow surgeries, has pitched twice in the last three weeks. . . . Andruw Jones' off-season training regimen will be overseen by a personal trainer and nutritionist hired by the Dodgers. . . . Frank Jobe, who invented Tommy John surgery, was honored in a pregame ceremony that included John, Orel Hershiser and Darren Dreifort. John threw out the first pitch.