Rafael Furcal’s return might be imminent, while Hawksworth looks DL-bound

In a rehabilitation appearance with Albuquerque on Saturday, shortstop Rafael Furcal went 2 for 3 with a walk, drove in three runs and – most importantly – batted right-handed for most of the game.

Hitting from the right side had been said to be the final hurdle to Furcal’s return to the Dodgers’ active roster from a broken left thumb.

Furcal has been out since April 11 and has missed 33 of the Dodgers’ 40 games this season. On Saturday, he walked in the first as a left-handed batter, then turned around to bat right and had RBI singles in the second and fourth innings, as well as a sixth-inning RBI groundout. No issues were reported about his performance in the field.

My hunch is that if he makes it through today unscathed, we’ll see Furcal in Los Angeles on Monday.

When he returns, Jamey Carroll will likely move over to second base, pushing Aaron Miles to the bench and Russ Mitchell to the minors. One question that will have to be answered when Casey Blake returns is whether the Dodgers will reduce the playing time of Juan Uribe or James Loney to preserve playing time for Carroll, who has the highest on-base percentage in the National League among shortstops. Certainly, Blake will get his share of rest. And might an occasional start in left field become part of the equation for Carroll?

In other roster talk, Dodger reliever Blake Hawksworth may go on the disabled list today after failing to show progress Saturday, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Los Angeles is expected to promote Javy Guerra, who has a 1.06 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17 innings (against 13 baserunners) with Double-A Chattanooga. Guerra had pitched 11 straight shutout innings over his last nine outings until giving up a home run Monday. He’s been idle since then.

Guerra did a tiny bit of blogging in 2009. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., in his Saturday posting “Dodgers Lose Battle, Win Guerra,” noted that the pitcher said on his Facebook page that he had gotten the call.

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Some more notes on Chad Billingsley’s Saturday performance, from ESPN Stats and Information:

- The Diamondbacks missed on 11 swings against Billingsley’s fastball, the most against the Dodgers’ right-hander in exactly two years (May 14, 2009).

- Billingsley’s fastball was particularly effective on the first pitch. He threw 21 fastballs on the first pitch of a plate appearance. Seventeen of those fastballs went for strikes, tied for his most in a start in the last three seasons. More remarkable is that the Diamondbacks put none of Billingsley’s first-pitch fastballs in play. They swung at eight, missing three and fouling off five.

- By throwing first-pitch strikes that didn’t end up in play, Billingsley started 18 of 27 hitters with an 0-1 count, his second-most 0-1 counts in a start since 2009. All eight of Billingsley’s strikeouts were in at-bats he started with a first-pitch strike. It also enabled him to rack up his strikeouts efficiently, as six of his eight were in at-bats lasting three or four pitches, tied for his most in the last three seasons.

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