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03/30/08 2:50 AM ET

Dodgers to place four on disabled list

Schmidt progressing, but months away from game action

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are expected to open the season with four players on the disabled list: Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgery), Nomar Garciaparra (broken hand), Andy LaRoche (thumb surgery) and Tony Abreu (groin muscle strain).

Schmidt, who had major shoulder surgery last June, said he's been progressing steadily since an early Spring setback. He occasionally tosses off a mound, but is months away from pitching competitively.

Garciaparra, healing slowly from a broken right hand suffered when hit on the wrist three weeks ago, is doing all phases of the game except hitting, which he won't resume until he's pain free.

LaRoche said he will have pins removed from his thumb on Tuesday, three weeks after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right (throwing) thumb.

Abreu remains the puzzle, having missed several months last year with an injury eventually diagnosed as a sports hernia that needed surgery. He's now out with a groin injury.

Closer Takashi Saito, slowed first by a strained calf muscle and more recently tightness in his buttock, struck out the two batters he retired Saturday night, allowed a walk and a hit, then was removed by manager Joe Torre after 22 pitches.

"He thought he did something wrong when I came out," said Torre. "He was throwing the ball good and he feels good, that's the most important thing."

Torre said he wouldn't hesitate giving Saito the ball in a save situation when the season starts.

Second baseman Jeff Kent started his second consecutive game since returning from a strained hamstring and is expected to be in the Opening Day lineup.

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