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Schmidt's rotator tear didn't scare off Dodgers

December 10, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Shaikin is a Times staff writer.

LAS VEGAS — The Dodgers knew Jason Schmidt had a rotator cuff injury when they signed him to a contract worth a guaranteed $47 million, the club acknowledged in a court filing this week.

The Dodgers filed suit against the company that insured Schmidt's contract, alleging failure to pay $9.27 million in claims. In the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Dodgers argue the torn labrum that required surgery and limited Schmidt to six games over two years was unrelated to the rotator cuff injury and thus covered by insurance.

Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said Tuesday the team could not comment on a pending legal matter.

The insurer, ACE American Insurance Company, issued the policy Feb. 24, 2007, two months after the Dodgers signed Schmidt.

"At the time the Dodgers entered into the policy with ACE," the suit reads, "both the Dodgers and ACE were aware that Mr. Schmidt had for some time during his career with the San Francisco Giants been suffering from a partial tear of the rotator cuff in his right [pitching] shoulder."

Schmidt pitched 213 innings in 2006, his final season in San Francisco, with a 3.59 earned-run average. However, according to STATS LLC, his percentage of fastballs below 90 mph that season jumped from below 10% in each of the first five months of the season to 24% in September.

"Before we sign anybody, they're run through a pretty strong physical," Dodgers General Manager Colletti said then. "If there was a red flag on any player, we wouldn't pursue him."

It is believed the Schmidt physical included an MRI examination that confirmed the rotator cuff injury. In the suit, the Dodgers claim such injuries are not uncommon and said they awarded him the contract based on his success with the Giants.

"Major league pitchers often experience such partial rotator cuff tears but nevertheless remain competitive and effective," the suit reads, "as Mr. Schmidt had demonstrated himself to be during the 2006 season immediately prior to joining the Dodgers.

"The Dodgers therefore did not find Mr. Schmidt's preexisting rotator cuff condition to exclude him from consideration as a team member."

Schmidt has not pitched since June 16, 2007. Colletti said Tuesday he was not expecting Schmidt to pitch in 2009, the final year of the contract.

"We're not counting on it," Colletti said. "If it happens, it's great."

News and notes

Third baseman Casey Blake finalized a $17.5-million contract that will pay him $5 million in 2009, $6 million in 2010 and $5.25 million in 2011. The deal includes a $6-million club option for 2012, with a $1.25-million buyout, plus $1.5 million in incentive bonuses. . . . Utility infielder Mark Loretta passed his physical Tuesday; the Dodgers are expected to announce his signing today. . . . Colletti said shortstop Rafael Furcal has been offered a contract from the Dodgers. He wouldn't detail the terms but made clear the Dodgers would not offer the requested four years. Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, told FoxSports.com that the Dodgers, Oakland, Kansas City and Toronto are the finalists. . . . Colletti said "a few" teams have inquired about the availability of Andruw Jones, but added, "Of course, they'd ask for us to pick up the vast majority of his salary." Jones has $22.1 million remaining on his two-year, $36.2-million contract.

Staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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