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05/28/07 10:31 PM ET

Schmidt to begin rehab assignment

Righty will pitch for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday

WASHINGTON -- Because he's further along in his recovery from right shoulder problems than the club had previously indicated -- or because the need for his return to the starting rotation is now more pressing -- disabled pitcher Jason Schmidt's upcoming simulated game has been scrapped and he will proceed to a Minor League rehabilitation assignment with Class A Inland Empire, starting Wednesday.

Schmidt, disabled since April 15 with shoulder bursitis that robbed him of velocity, had an impressive bullpen simulated game May 20 in Anaheim and a bullpen session Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in which he threw harder than at any time as a Dodger.

He was scheduled to throw a simulated game against live hitters on Friday, but that was cancelled because he had the flu. He threw about 50 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday and manager Grady Little said Schmidt would make the trip to Washington and throw a simulated game during the week.

Instead, club officials announced Monday that Schmidt would pitch in San Bernardino on Wednesday against Rancho Cucamonga, in a game that begins at 11 a.m. PT. He will be accompanied by team trainer Stan Conte, who was Schmidt's trainer with the San Francisco Giants until both came to the Dodgers this year. Conte has not skipped any other Dodgers trip this year. No other explanation was given for the change in plans.

Going into a Minor League rehab assignment without the benefit of previously facing live hitters is not the norm for injured pitchers, but Schmidt has had plenty of practice returning from shoulder injuries. This is the fifth time he has been disabled with one, and in August 2000, he had surgery to repair a frayed rotator cuff and labrum.

Before being disabled this year, Schmidt was 1-2 in three starts with a 7.36 ERA and three home runs allowed in 11 innings. His place in the starting rotation was taken by Mark Hendrickson, who allowed only three earned runs in his first four starts, but has been roughed up for 16 earned runs in his last four starts.

In addition, the Dodgers have removed Brett Tomko from the rotation and are considering inserting Hong-Chih Kuo or Chad Billingsley in his spot this Saturday in Pittsburgh. Kuo allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in a Sunday start for Triple-A Las Vegas.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.