PHOENIX — Jason Schmidt said he didn't know how his shoulder would respond to the scoreless inning he pitched Monday in the Dodgers' intrasquad game.
But he said the way he felt after facing four batters at Camelback Ranch was markedly different from the way he felt after he tried to pitch last year, which he spent entirely on the disabled list and ended with his second surgery in as many seasons.
"Coming in tomorrow, being able to play catch, that's the bigger hurdle than anything," Schmidt said. "Last year I kind of knew when the game was over how I was going to feel. I feel really good about it right now."
Schmidt made 11 pitches, nine of them strikes. Juan Pierre grounded out, Mark Loretta flied out, Casey Blake hit an infield single and Matt Kemp grounded out to short.
"It looked like he had an easy time throwing the ball," Manager Joe Torre said. "He's been in a great frame of mind. Even last year when he was going to rehab in places, in between there would always be that one day when he wasn't sure."
How was Schmidt's stuff?
"He got me out, so his stuff was real good," said Pierre, laughing.
Schmidt, who is in the final year of a three-year, $47-million contract with the Dodgers, made six starts in 2007 and none last year. The outing on Monday marked Schmidt's first game action since he made a minor league rehabilitation start in August.
Schmidt's pitches weren't clocked by radar, but the former All-Star said he has resigned himself to not being able to throw as hard as he used to.
"I'm not going to be the 96, 98 [mph] guy I was before," he said. "I just have to get it around the plate and get them to hit it on the ground."
He said that shouldn't be a problem.
"I tried to pitch like I was a finesse guy anyway," he said.
He mentioned that when he battled back from his first shoulder surgery, in 2000, he learned to pitch with his fastball in the mid-80s.
"I had some of my better games throwing with less velocity, so I know I can do it," he said.
Schmidt's next game will be a "B" game on Friday against the Chicago White Sox, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said.
Rumors spread on Monday that Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers were closing in on a two- or three-year deal and KLAC-AM (570) went so far as to report that a deal "should" be completed by the end of the week.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti walked into the media work room at Camelback Ranch to inform reporters that the news was news to him.
"Nothing's changed in 48 hours," Colletti said.
But Colletti, who publicly acknowledged the Dodgers' first two offers to Ramirez soon after making them, would not say whether his club has a new proposal on the table. Colletti said he declined to comment because he didn't want to encourage reporters to inquire about rumors.
Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, also wasn't saying much.
"I'm not going to address that," said Boras, who rarely comments publicly on offers received by his clients.
Boras also wouldn't say whether the timetable he provided this month for Ramirez would hold up.
Boras previously told The Times that he expected Ramirez to be signed by the start of the exhibition season, which is on Wednesday for the Dodgers.
Boras said he has maintained daily dialogue with Colletti, who revealed Saturday that talks between the sides had become "more frequent and longer."
Claudio Vargas and Eric Milton are scheduled to pitch in the Dodgers' Cactus League opener Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz., against the Chicago Cubs. Randy Wolf, Jeff Weaver and Jonathan Broxton will pitch the next day in Scottsdale against the San Francisco Giants. . . . Second baseman Orlando Hudson will receive deferred payments for a significant part of his one-year, $3.38-million contract. His $380,000 signing bonus will be deferred without interest. The same could be true of $1.45 million of the additional $4.62 million he can earn in incentives based on plate appearances.