Schmidt nears Cactus League debut
Dodgers right-hander might pitch Monday or Tuesday
PHOENIX -- Jason Schmidt, whose slow start has handicapped his bid for the fifth-starter job, could make his "A" game exhibition debut Monday or Tuesday, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Saturday.
Schmidt went into and came out of a bullpen session in good shape Saturday, appearing to be more comfortable than most of his recent sessions. He complained earlier in the week of body soreness coming out of a "B" game last Friday, but he threw live batting practice Thursday and felt better than he expected Friday and Saturday, leading to the bullpen session.
"I didn't feel so good early in the week, and that would have translated into needing a week off last year," said Schmidt. "I can't predict anymore how my arm feels from one day to the next. I'm still learning how my arm's reacting."
Before he threw, manager Joe Torre said it was too early to conclude that Schmidt, trying to rehabilitate from two shoulder operations, was already too far behind the other candidates to be the fifth starter when the season opened.
"A lot depends on how much game stuff he gets this spring," said Torre. "There's plenty of time left now, but you don't know when he'll get in a game. At this point in time [is it still possible to make the rotation]? Sure. But not knowing when his first time will be, once we know that, we can answer that more realistically."
Schmidt was pleased with the way his session went, saying his changeup had the diving movement it had when he was in his prime, and even his fastball seemed to have more velocity.
"I watched some video and saw that I needed to use my lower body more," Schmidt said. "I noticed my head wasn't moving and I wasn't dropping and driving. Sometimes you get in the habit of using your top half and forget about the lower half."
"Today his arm was freer in the 'pen," said Honeycutt. "He showed he's got a little bounce-back."
The leading candidate for the fifth job so far appears to be Claudio Vargas. Also in competition are Eric Milton, Eric Stults and Shawn Estes. Jeff Weaver has pitched as well as any of them and hasn't been ruled out, although he seems more like the leading candidate to replace swingman Chan Ho Park. The other four starters are Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw.
Also throwing bullpen sessions Saturday were Hong-Chih Kuo and Travis Schlichting, whose springs have been slowed by elbow and back problems.
Kuo, the primary setup man, has been cautious with his elbow, but Honeycutt said he is scheduled to make his first game appearance in a "B" game Monday, as will Schlichting.
"The arm speed on his fastball and changeup have been real good," Honeycutt said of Kuo. "His curveball arm speed isn't there yet."
Cory Wade, another setup candidate who encountered shoulder problems during the first workout of camp, continues his recovery and is scheduled to throw live batting practice Sunday. He is tentatively scheduled to make his first exhibition game appearance a week later.
The Dodgers also announced the signing of two players out of their Friday tryout -- right-handed pitcher Tim Corcoran and infielder Zach Penprase. Corcoran played parts of three Major League seasons with Tampa Bay and was in the Marlins system last year. Penprase played in the Boston system last year after a year in independent ball.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.