It is unlikely that Washington's new baseball team will face the Baltimore Orioles in interleague play next season, but head-to-head games between the soon-to-be regional rivals could begin in 2006.

"It probably won't happen next year, because [schedules] are pretty much set," said Katy Feeney, baseball's senior vice president for scheduling and club relations. "Nothing is set in stone yet, but it probably won't happen."

For 2005, the Orioles are likely to continue facing the Philadelphia Phillies as a regional rival, while the new Washington team would still face the Toronto Blue Jays -- the Montreal Expos' regional rival before it was announced the team would be moving to Washington for next season.

Since the inception of interleague play in 1997, MLB has switched the matchups -- so that the National League East, for instance, was matched against each of the three American League divisions on a rotating basis. However, most teams were also paired with a "regional" rival that it plays every year during interleague play.

Feeney also said the master 2005 schedule has not been released yet because there are still some aspects of it that are subject to change.

Furcal Cleared to Play

The Atlanta Braves learned yesterday morning, just hours before the first pitch in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, that shortstop Rafael Furcal would be able to play, despite a probation violation on a drunken-driving charge.

State Court judge David Darden ruled yesterday that Furcal must begin a 49-day jail sentence once the Braves' season is over. In the meantime, he will be under home confinement before and after games.

Furcal was charged with drunken driving on Sept. 10, when he was 49 days short of completing a one-year probation from a June 2000 driving under the influence charge.

Furcal, who brushed off reporters' questions as he entered Turner Field yesterday, was in the Braves' lineup, batting leadoff.

"He's fine," Braves Manager Bobby Cox said. "I talked to Raffy this morning. He's good to go. He's in a fine frame of mind. He's looking forward to getting everything taken care of when all this is done. . . . He's a good kid, and we'll be there to help him."

Astros' Beltran Injured

Astros center fielder Carlos Beltran left yesterday's Game 1 after being hit in the ribs by a fastball from Braves reliever Juan Cruz in the seventh inning, and Manager Phil Garner was unsure if Beltran would be able to play in Game 2 today.

"It hurt him pretty good. It got him real good, solid in the ribs," Garner said. "He's sore right now. He was having trouble breathing when I got over there."

Beltran was having a dominant game to that point, having homered and singled twice. . . .

The ailing right shoulder of Orlando Hernandez has forced Yankees Manager Joe Torre to start Kevin Brown in Game 3 in Minnesota.

Bradley in Confrontation

The Dodgers' Milton Bradley allegedly called a reporter an "Uncle Tom" after the outfielder was asked how he was treated by St. Louis fans following his season-ending suspension for throwing a bottle into the stands.

The confrontation occurred in the clubhouse at Busch Stadium after batting practice during an off-day in the Los Angeles-St. Louis playoff series. Bradley fielded a question from Los Angeles Times reporter Jason Reid regarding fans during the Cardinals' 8-3 win in Game 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal talks with his attorney, William Head, during his probation violation hearing on a drunken-driving charge.