Schmidt attempting to crack rotation
Torre would like to see more starts before making decision
PHOENIX -- Jason Schmidt will start a split-squad game Monday against the A's in his continuing quest to return from two shoulder surgeries, but manager Joe Torre on Sunday said he isn't sure the right-hander will be ready to be his fifth starter when the season opens in three weeks.
"I really have no idea on him yet," Torre said, having seen Schmidt make one exhibition "A" game start last Monday, allowing three runs in two innings against Texas.
"Keep in mind he hasn't competed in a while. Does that mean that even if he comes through Spring Training, does he have to pitch a couple games and compete somewhere (on a rehab assignment)? We'll see what we see. It's tough to evaluate on one [game]. I need three times in the hopper. I'll have a better idea what I feel and what he feels for what he needs."
Torre said he wants to see Schmidt healthy enough to be on a regular schedule, and he would like to see Schmidt pitching effectively. And one more thing.
"If he has that good look in his eye, that's what I'm looking for," Torre said. "Right now, he's still unsure. It's not as much the physical part as the mental part. He has to be competing and not thinking about the pitching stuff. Now he's still working on doing things right. Once he takes for granted that it's OK, we really start considering."
Torre said he needs to see a few more starts from Schmidt "before we head down that path," meaning starting the season in extended Spring Training or on a Minor League rehab start.
Schmidt has been Torre's preferred choice to be the fifth starter because of his experience and past success. But with the season barely three weeks away and the need to stretch out the other four starters, it will become increasingly difficult to provide innings for Schmidt and the other fifth-starter candidates.
Leading that competition were two pitchers who struggled Sunday -- Eric Milton and Claudio Vargas. Also in the running are Shawn Estes and Eric Stults. Stults threw three scoreless innings in a Saturday "B" game. Estes is scheduled to follow Schmidt on Monday.
Torre said the next round of cuts are likely to be made Tuesday, following the Monday split-squad games, which makes these next three games something of an elimination round for the fifth-starter candidates. It's unlikely the Dodgers will be able to continue providing innings for more than two of them.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.