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Dodgers' Jason Schmidt feels OK after spring debut

The 35-year-old right-hander, who missed last season and most of 2007 with shoulder problems, gives up a three-run homer but says his arm and shoulder feel fine after two-inning stint against Texas.

March 10, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

SURPRISE, ARIZ. — He pitched only two innings, and he gave up a three-run home run.

But Dodgers right-hander Jason Schmidt showed enough Monday to convince Manager Joe Torre that he could be the team's fifth starter.

"I don't think there's any question," Torre said.

In terms of results, Schmidt's first official spring training game in two years was a mixed bag. Facing the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium -- a game the Dodgers won, 13-7 -- he threw only 12 pitches in a scoreless first inning. And he used his slider to strike out Andruw Jones and Travis Metcalf in the second. However, he also gave up a three-run home run to Taylor Teagarden that inning.

But Schmidt, 36, said he wasn't concerned about his line in the box score. As he begins the final year of a three-year, $47-million contract, he is more focused on how he might feel in the next few days. Shoulder problems have limited him to six starts in his two years with the team.

Saying that his arm felt fine and that he wasn't particularly nervous taking the mound, Schmidt said he was hopeful that a problem he experienced last year during his rehabilitation starts in the minors would not resurface. Last season, as his pitch count increased, his pitches started to rise in the strike zone.

"That's one of the things I've been struggling with," he said.

Schmidt's fastball was clocked mostly in the 87-88-mph range Monday, but he touched 91 mph a couple of times according to the stadium's radar gun.

Fine print

There is a provision in Manny Ramirez's contract that would prevent the Dodgers from offering the All-Star outfielder salary arbitration when he files for free agency. That means that if Ramirez declines the $20-million player option for 2010 and is a ranked free agent, the Dodgers wouldn't be compensated with draft picks if they lose him to another club.

This could increase Ramirez's value if he is again a Type A free agent -- a player determined by the Elias Sports Bureau to rank in the top 20% of his position group based on his statistics over the previous two seasons. Teams that sign a Type A free agent are forced to give their first-round pick in the next amateur draft to the player's former club. A Type A free agent's former club is also entitled to a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.

Ramirez's two-year, $45-million contract is valued by the players' union at $42,005,723 because most of his salary is deferred without interest.

Status Kuo

Outside of pitching in the major league postseason, Hong-Chih Kuo says there's nothing like representing baseball-mad Chinese Taipei in an international tournament.

"If you pitch for your country, everyone puts a lot of pressure on you," he said. "It's only a few games so you can't make any mistakes. I like the pressure."

It was with a somewhat heavy heart that Kuo watched his native country's first-round elimination from the World Baseball Classic. Kuo, who pitched in the inaugural tournament in 2006, wanted to be there, but the uncertain condition of his elbow prevented him from playing this year.

"They understand," Kuo said of the Chinese Taipei Baseball Assn. "They know I have a history."

The four elbow surgeries on Kuo's medical log are why the Dodgers are being cautious with him and why the left-handed reliever didn't participate in his first game action of the spring until Monday. He pitched a scoreless inning in a "B" game against the Chicago White Sox, throwing 11 pitches, eight for strikes. "My arm's getting stronger," he said.

Kuo will probably next pitch on Thursday, Torre said.

Short hops

Jones, the former Dodgers outfielder, hit a two-run homer for the Rangers off Claudio Vargas. . . . Hot-hitting Dodgers prospect Xavier Paul had a double, triple and two runs batted in. He's hitting .406. The outfielder hit .316 in 115 games in triple A last year. . . . Eric Collins of ESPN became the fourth play-by-play man to audition this spring to be part of the Dodgers' television broadcast team. The candidate selected by the Dodgers will fill in for Vin Scully on 40 or so games the team will play in locations east of Colorado.

Times staff writer Jim Peltz contributed to this report.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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