February 2009

Schmidt Clears First Hurdle

Fifth-starter candidate Jason Schmidt allowed one hit in a scoreless inning of work during Monday’s intra-squad game for the Dodgers and came away saying his shoulder felt fine. Schmidt has undergone two operations since he last pitched in a Major League game. Schmidt got ground outs from Juan Pierre and Matt Kemp, a fly out by Mark Loretta and allowed a hit when Casey Blake’s line drive went off the glove of third baseman Luis Maza. Schmidt never faced hitters last Spring when he was struggling to return from June 2007 surgery. “My biggest goal was to get out there and walk off in one piece,” said Schmidt. “Last year, I would pitch in a game and have to take two weeks off. Tomorrow when I play catch will be the biggest hurdle, but I feel pretty good now.” — Ken Gurnick

Kuo Back on the Mound

Hong-Chih Kuo, being handled gingerly this Spring because of what manager Joe Torre calls “a balky elbow,” had his first bullpen session in four days Monday morning and appeared to be throwing comfortably. Kuo is always a question mark because of the four elbow operations he’s undergone.

Torre also said Cory Wade and Yhency Brazoban, who have had cortisone shots for shoulder problems, have resumed playing catch.

Although Torre said he doesn’t want to think about not having unsigned free agent Manny Ramirez in left field, he concedes he’s thinking about it enough “not to get short” in case he doesn’t have Ramirez. So he’s told Casey Blake he’ll get some work in left field in some early games. And he repeated that Blake DeWitt will see action at shortstop, in addition to third base and second base.

Torre said Claudio Vargas, a contender for the fifth-starter job, will get the start in Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the Cubs at Mesa. Eric Milton, Stephen Randolph, Nick DeBarr and Carmen Cali are also scheduled to pitch. On Thursday against the Giants at Scottsdale, Randy Wolf will start with Jeff Weaver, Eric Stults, Jonathan Broxton, Tanyon Sturtze, Edgar Martinez and Scott Strickland on the list.

Torre’s Update

Manager Joe Torre Sunday morning said he will continue to carefully handle reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, whose four elbow operations have taken their toll. Torre said he was told by trainer Stan Conte that Kuo is experiencing the same elbow “issues” as last spring, but “not quite as bad,” and not the same that sidelined Kuo last September.

Torre said 200 innings were realistic for Clayton Kershaw, who turns 21 next month. Kershaw threw a combined 171 innings last year, including 61 1/3 at Double-A.

Newly arrived second baseman Orlando Hudson is expected to play in Monday’s intrasquad game, with Jason Schmidt scheduled to pitch. Hudson will see his first game action since undergoing two operations in August to repair a dislocated fracture of his left wrist. It will be Schmidt’s first game action since undergoing a second shoulder operation in September.

Cory Wade, out a week after a cortisone injection in his right shoulder, will resume playing catch Monday. Yhency Brazoban had a cortisone injection Saturday and will be sidelined several days. — Ken Gurnick

Hudson Passes Physical

Orlando Hudson, who suffered a dislocated left wrist that ended his 2008 season, passed a physical exam Saturday and officially was signed to a one-year contract by the Dodgers to play second base. Hudson will receive a $3.38 million base salary and performance incentives that could take his salary up to $8 million. — Ken Gurnick

Pitchers Face Hitters

For the first time this Spring, Dodgers pitchers threw live batting practice Saturday. Among those on the mound were Chad Billingsley and fifth-starter contenders Eric Milton, Shawn Estes, Jeff Weaver, Claudio Vargas and Ramon Troncoso.

Manager Joe Torre said Cory Wade, who underwent a cortisone injection earlier in the week for shoulder irritation, has had his return to throwing delayed a day until Monday. Yhency Brazoban also might resume throwing then. Travis Schlichting still is bothered by lower back stiffness. — Ken Gurnick

Hudson En Route for Physical

Orlando Hudson was expected to arrive at Camelback Ranch-Glendale Saturday morning for his physical exam. If his healing left wrist passes, he will become the Dodgers’ new second baseman, displacing Blake DeWitt, after agreeing to a one-year deal for $3.38 million with incentives that could take it to $8 million. Manager Joe Torre said he spoke with DeWitt and told him his role has not been decided, but that he should work out at several positions, including shortstop. It’s conceivable Hudson’s dislocated wrist wouldn’t be 100 percent by Opening Day and DeWitt could still make the club. As for a utility role, Torre implied that a healthy Tony Abreu would be more likely because he can play shortstop, presumably with DeWitt playing every day at Triple-A. But Abreu needs to show he’s shaken two years of injuries.

 

Torre indicated a healthy switch-hitting Hudson would be a good fit to bat second behind Rafael Furcal and that he might move Casey Blake to left field (and DeWitt to third), but that was more a double-switch option than for every-day positioning. Torre emphasized he still is counting on unsigned free agent Manny Ramirez to start in left field. — Ken Gurnick

Schmidt to Debut Monday

Jason Schmidt, on the comeback from two shoulder operations, will pitch one inning of an intrasquad game Monday as he launches his bid to win the fifth starter spot. Jonathan Broxton, who leaves March 1 for the World Baseball Classic, also will throw in the game. The remainder of the pitchers, according to manager Joe Torre: Erick Threets, Greg Miller, Scott Elbert, Justin Orenduff, Jesus Castillo, Brent Leach, Victor Garate and Jacobo Meque. — Ken Gurnick

Minor League Minicamp Opens

A year ago, it included Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt, so the Dodgers Minor League minicamp that opened Friday really can have an impact on the season. Among the players invited, or in other words, the top prospects in the organization: Andrew Lambo, Josh Bell, Josh Lindblom, Pedro Baez, Ethan Martin and Nathan Eovaldi. — Ken Gurnick

 

Dodgers Sign Hudson

The Dodgers and free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson have agreed on a one-year contract with a base of $3.4 million and incentives that could take the total to $8 million, baseball sources confirmed Friday. Hudson will take over for the retired Jeff Kent, displacing Blake DeWitt, who came into Spring Training as the starting second baseman. Terms were not available. The deal apparently came together when it was reported that the Dodgers were also talking with free agent infielder Orlando Cabrera. — Ken Gurnick

Don’t Forget Abreu

Two years ago, Tony Abreu nearly made the Major League club out of Spring Training. But a series of injuries kept him off the field for the last 1 1/2 seasons and triggered organizational grumbling that he was soft. Now, coming off arthroscopic hip surgery, Abreu could resume his career as a key utility player, according to manager Joe Torre, because he can play second base, third base and shortstop. Torre said his bench shapes up a little light at first base, although he said Mark Loretta and Casey Blake can play the position. He said Andre Ethier again volunteered to work at the position. — Ken Gurnick