Esteban Loaiza was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of tightness and spasms in his right shoulder -- a move that could create an opportunity for top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw to make his major league debut in Anaheim on May 17.
First, the Dodgers are expected to call up Yhency Brazoban from triple-A Las Vegas for the start of a three-game series Friday against the Houston Astros. He was sent to the minors at the beginning of the season to strengthen his arm. The former closer has pitched sparingly in the last two seasons because of arm trouble, having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2006 and season-ending shoulder surgery last June.
Brazoban, 27, who gave up six runs in 3 2/3 innings in spring training, started the season with double-A Jacksonville. He posted a 2.53 earned-run average in 10 2/3 innings and was moved to Las Vegas, where he has given up one run in four innings.
Kershaw, 20, could replace Brazoban or another reliever on the active roster the next time the Dodgers need a fifth starter -- probably on May 17. The spot belonged to Loaiza, whose move to the disabled list is retroactive to Sunday, making him eligible to be activated May 18. Hong-Chih Kuo has also pitched in that role, but Manager Joe Torre said he wants Kuo to remain in the bullpen. Chan Ho Park is another option.
A place for Kershaw on the 40-man roster can be opened by moving Jason Schmidt from the 15-day to 60-day disabled list. Asked Wednesday about the possibility of Kershaw's being called up, Torre replied, "You'll have to wait and see."
The left-handed Kershaw was sensational in his first major league camp this spring, posting an ERA of 0.64 in 14 innings and striking out 19. He was 0-3 in his first six starts with Jacksonville, but had 36 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings to go with a 1.11 ERA. General Manager Ned Colletti was in attendance at Kershaw's most recent start, when he pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings May 2.
Wednesday, Kershaw made his season debut as a reliever and threw only eight pitches in a perfect fifth. He is slated to start for Jacksonville on Monday, five days before the opening in the Dodgers' rotation.
Loaiza said he first felt the tightness in his shoulder playing catch Tuesday. He said he didn't feel any discomfort when throwing Wednesday and that he protested his move to the disabled list.
"I feel fine," he said. "I want to pitch. I want to be out there and throwing."
But Loaiza, who was sidelined for most of last season because of knee and neck problems, said he understood why the Dodgers were cautious.
"They want me to get better," he said. "They don't want me to get hurt because they really need me. And I really do want to be here and not be like last year."
Loaiza is 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA in three starts this season. He gave up five runs and lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his start Saturday in Colorado.
Schmidt threw a light bullpen session instead of a planned simulated game. Torre said Schmidt would do something "game related" this weekend -- either pitch in a simulated game at Dodger Stadium or make a minor league rehab start.
Asked if he thought he was ready to start a 30-day rehab assignment, Schmidt replied, "We'll see."
Matt Kemp extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a ninth-inning single that drove in Andruw Jones. . . . Torre scrapped plans to rest Russell Martin, but replaced him in the seventh inning with Gary Bennett. . . . James Loney was one for four with a double on his 24th birthday. His mother attended the game and wished him a happy birthday on the right-field video scoreboard.