Schmidt out of running to be fifth starter
Dodgers easing right-hander back into action after lost season
PHOENIX -- Even before Jason Schmidt took the mound to pitch two scoreless innings of the Dodgers' exhibition game with Oakland on Monday, manager Joe Torre ruled the injury-plagued right-hander out of the competition to open the season as the club's fifth starter.
"This is all about getting him back sometime down the road," said Torre. "At this point, I don't know where it is with the surgery and the whole thing. We're looking at it like a continuing rehab."
Monday's start was Schmidt's second this spring, two more than he was able to make last spring coming off major shoulder surgery in June 2007. Last September, he underwent another procedure to remove the arthritic tip of his clavicle.
"That's up to him. It's not up to me," Schmidt said, referring to Torre's decision. "I just try to get up there on the mound and not think about Opening Day or five days from then. I'm thinking of eventually getting in a game, getting in a game in L.A. and pitching in the big leagues. There's no set timetable."
Schmidt has reported better health, but he still isn't able to throw on a normal five-day schedule because it takes his body longer to rebound.
"In the game, the adrenaline kicks in, but the [between-start bullpen sessions] are where I have the most trouble," said Schmidt. "That's where I want to work on stuff, but by the time I've gotten loose, I've thrown 60 pitches and it's time to quit."
Schmidt said he struggled to warm up Monday, but felt better once the game started. He walked Nomar Garciaparra in the first inning, got the first two outs in the second inning, then allowed a single and walk before ending the inning with his second strikeout.
Schmidt made 42 pitches and said by that time, he was loose enough to throw another inning, but that was never considered because of the likely longer rebound it would cause.
"Obviously, I'd like to go a few more innings," Schmidt said. "I was happy to get through it, to survive with getting outs. I was hitting my spots. It wasn't bad."
"He's a ways away from every five days," Torre said of Schmidt. "You saw last time he got tired in the second inning and needed extra time [one full week] to come back. At this juncture, in fairness to him, there's no way to count on that now, less than three weeks from Opening Day."
Because Schmidt's recovery time is unpredictable, Torre will look elsewhere for his fifth starter. Candidates include Eric Milton, Eric Stults, Claudio Vargas and Shawn Estes, who struggled against the A's Monday.
Estes allowed two runs on six hits with a walk and hit batter in 2 1/3 innings, three of the hits going for extra bases.
The most impressive Dodgers pitcher was right-hander Josh Lindblom, their second-round pick last year from Purdue, who pitched two scoreless innings.
Lindblom, 21, is still in Minor League camp and had only 34 professional innings last year, but is ranked by Baseball America as the organization's No. 4 prospect. He is expected to see continued action in Major League games this spring.
Earlier, the Dodgers used three pitchers in a nine-run third inning that included four walks and two hit batters.
Jeff Weaver started that inning in relief of Schmidt, and all four batters he faced scored, after which Torre said Weaver would be used exclusively in relief and would not become a candidate for the fifth-starter job.
Weaver was relieved by Stephen Randolph, who did his candidacy for the second lefty reliever role no good when he allowed three walks, a hit and four more runs. Estes inherited the bases loaded from Randolph and all three runners scored, as did the first batter Estes faced. He finished with 2 2/3 innings and was charged with two runs.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.