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Judge lets Furcal play before jail time

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Published October 7, 2004

MARIETTA, Ga. - Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal was cleared Wednesday to play in the postseason despite a probation violation on a drunken-driving charge.

The ruling came hours before the Braves opened their division series with the Astros.

Furcal must remain in home confinement for the rest of the season. He has to return to a hotel if on the road, Judge David Darden said.

Darden sentenced Furcal to 21 days in jail to be followed by a 28-day in-house treatment program. The judge delayed the start of the sentence until the day after the Braves' season ends.

Furcal also must blow into a portable breath-testing machine when called by a monitoring service affiliated with the probation department. The machine, hooked up to a cell phone and video camera, will relay the test results to officials.

"Don't take it lightly," Darden said. "The court is concerned a second violation might indicate he has a problem with judgment with regard to alcohol."

Furcal, 26, seemed surprised by the length of the sentence.

"That's a lot of days," he said during batting practice before Game 1. "It's bad for me. I've never been in jail that long."

But he was glad to have at least part of his legal problems resolved. Furcal still faces the drunken-driving charge, but his lawyers hope to reach a deal in which any possible jail time would be served at the same time as his sentence for the probation violation.

"I wanted to put it out of the way and get my mind better," Furcal said. "Now I can focus on my game."

Furcal was arrested Sept. 10 and accused of driving under the influence, his second DUI arrest in four years. That violated his probation in Cobb County for a June 2000 arrest.

BELTRAN BANGED UP: Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran is questionable for Game 2 today after getting hit in the ribs by a pitch from Atlanta's Juan Cruz.

Beltran was 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and a stolen base when an inside fastball caught him in the right ribs in the seventh inning. Beltran hobbled to first and stayed in the game, but he didn't go in the field for the bottom half. Afterward, he wasn't sure about playing today.

"We'll have to see how it feels," Beltran said. "I don't want to put myself in a position where I can't perform."

X-rays were negative, but Beltran was in obvious pain.

"It got him real good, solid in the ribs," manager Phil Garner said. "He was having trouble breathing when he got over there (to first base)."

HURTING HAND: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones started, shaking off a sore right hand.

Jones was struck by a pitch in the next-to-last game of the regular season. Monday, he was too sore to take swings during batting practice. By Wednesday, Jones was ready.

"It feels better," Jones said. "There's not a lot of pain."

LIMA TIME: Dodgers right-hander Jose Lima, scheduled to start Game 3 Saturday, said there's no easy way to pitch to St. Louis' powerful lineup.

"Don't try to trick them, don't try to be foolish, just go up there and try to challenge them," Lima said. "You cannot go out there and try to work the count on those guys because that's what they want, they look for one pitch to hurt you."

Lima said there are no weak spots throughout that lineup, even .247-hitting catcher Mike Matheny. Lima fought his way back to the majors in 2003, playing with the independent Newark Bears before getting signed by the Royals.

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