05/21/08 2:16 AM ET
Bennett meets with Sax on way to DL
Catcher talks with former Dodger about throwing troubles
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
While sidelined, Bennett will work on a bigger problem -- his mental block about return throws to the mound.
Eager for a solution, Bennett had a chance meeting on Tuesday with the franchise expert on throwing problems -- retired second baseman Steve Sax, who in 1983 made every play an adventure.
That year, Sax's wildness led to 30 errors and caused a collective groan throughout the stadium every time a ball came his way. It was the same groan that Bennett heard at Angel Stadium on Friday night.
After he airmailed a throw to first base that allowed a run to score in the fourth inning on a strike three in the dirt, the play repeated in the fifth inning, and Dodgers fans in the crowd made it sound like a grounder had just been hit to Sax. Bennett's throw was perfect that time, but he threw another one away to first base on Sunday.
Sax happened to be at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday hosting friends. He briefed Bennett on how his throwing problem started (a wild relay throw from short right field that allowed a runner who had held up to score), followed a day later by throwing away a routine grounder by Tony Gwynn.
More to the point, Sax explained to Bennett how it ended.
"All it is, is a lack of confidence," said Sax. "I just had to practice it over and over and rebuild my confidence. It wasn't easy. I remember they blindfolded me and had me throw and I was right down the middle. Then in the game, I never knew where it would go. But people only remember the bad throws. They don't remember I led the American League in fielding. Of course, having Don Mattingly at first didn't hurt.
"I still get a letter a week from coaches and parents. It's unbelievable how common this is. But anybody can get over it by practicing and rebuilding their confidence."
Bennett isn't sure how his problem started, but he said he remembers pulling a couple return tosses to Cardinals reliever Jason Isringhausen in Spring Training last year. Bennett also remembers earlier that Spring Training suffering a concussion from a foul tip. The sequence might be related, as former Mets catcher Mackey Sasser had a similar problem returning throws to the pitcher that was traced by a psychologist to the trauma of a home-plate collision.
Similar to Sax, Bennett said when he must react with a quick throw, as he would on an attempted stolen base, his motion is without hesitation. But when he has time to think about it, he hesitates and lobs the ball.
A 10-year veteran, Bennett has started six games behind the plate this year and is hitting .190 with one homer and four RBIs in 21 at-bats.
To take Bennett's place on the 25-man roster, the Dodgers purchased the contract of Danny Ardoin from Triple-A Las Vegas. To make room on the Major League roster for Ardoin, the Dodgers moved Jason Schmidt to the 60-day disabled list, a procedural move because Schmidt will be eligible to be activated before he's ready to pitch on the Major League level.
Ardoin is hitting .303 with four homers and 16 RBIs with the 51s. He is 33 and has been a professional since 1995. He became the Rockies starting catcher in 2005, but he suffered a knee injury in a collision at the plate with former Dodgers outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. and has struggled to regain his form.
Schmidt made his second injury rehabilitation start Saturday, and his Minor League rehabilitation assignment is expected to last until at least early June.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.