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07/28/09 8:34 PM ET

Torre mum on Dodgers starter for Friday

Possible deal before Trade Deadline could alter plans

ST. LOUIS -- Joe Torre on Tuesday remained noncommittal about naming a starting pitcher for Friday night, while Jason Schmidt came away from a bullpen session saying he threw better than he has in a while.

Friday would be Schmidt's turn, assuming the Dodgers don't acquire a starting pitcher before the opener of a three-game series in Atlanta, the same day as the Trade Deadline. Schmidt is coming off a three-inning outing in his second start in two years. Had he been ruled out of the start, he wouldn't have had the bullpen session.

He met with Torre on Monday and told his manager he wasn't sure if he had the command to do any better. But after meeting with Torre again Tuesday, Schmidt dusted off a different changeup delivery and was pleased with the results.

"I felt more like my old self," he said.

Torre said trade "conversations" are ongoing but gave no indication whether his decision on a starter for Friday would be made for him. Regardless, he said he plans to decide by Wednesday who among current Dodgers pitchers will make that start, to allow the pitcher time to prepare, Jeff Weaver being the most logical in-house alternate candidate.

"I've had a couple conversations [with Schmidt] about how he feels," Torre said. "It's still all about being able to locate and being physically capable to do that. He's spent so much time on the disabled list with so many injuries. He's re-learning, using muscles that he's not used to using, and finds himself with different aches and pains."

Schmidt said any discomfort he experiences is secondary to his inability to locate pitches. On Sunday, he was missing targets by large margins, regardless of the kinds of the pitch type. He said he's convinced he can be effective, despite reduced velocity, if his location is consistent, as it was for four innings in his first start back, but only for the first inning Sunday.

As for his bullpen, Torre said Hong-Chih Kuo came out of his first Major League appearance in three months fine. By contrast, there is increasing concern over rookie relievers James McDonald and Brent Leach.

McDonald has allowed eight runs (four earned) in his past 3 1/3 innings.

"It's really unfair to evaluate other than looking at the big picture," Torre said of McDonald. "That job [middle relief] is very tough for a young kid to do. It's location. He still has quality stuff and is throwing strikes but not locating as well as he needs to."

Leach had become Torre's situational left-hander, but of the past 12 batters he's faced, seven have reached base (five hits, two walks).

"This is really the first time where, back-to-back, he's really had a problem," Torre said of Leach.

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