Tomorrow’s notes and tonight’s lineup

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
1B Loney
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
C Martin
RF Kemp
3B Abreu
LH Wells

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Dodgers right-hander Jason Schmidt, meeting with reporters for the first time since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on June 20, said on Thursday that he still believes he will be ready for the start of spring training and that he can be as good a pitcher as he ever was and perhaps even better.
“It’s a tricky question, because what was I before?” Schmidt said. “I’m striving to be better than that. That is my goal.”
The Dodgers signed Schmidt, a 12-year veteran with a proven track record, to a three-year, $47 million contract last winter, snatching him from rival San Francisco at a time when the free-agent market was thin on pitching. But from the start of spring training, it was clear Schmidt’s velocity had dropped off, and the result was that he went 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA in six starts sandwiched around a seven-week stint on the disabled list.
When it was clear he wasn’t getting any better, he underwent exploratory arthroscopic surgery, whereupon doctors repaired bursa scarring, biceps tendon fraying and a labral tear, knocking him out for the rest of the season.
“To wake up and realize what it was, that was definitely a shock,” Schmidt said. “I was disappointed. But at the same time, for anyone who has ever had surgery, it’s kind of a relief to know that whatever issues you had are now fixed and you can move forward. … I’m feeling really good. Obviously, you want to be throwing, but there is a whole time frame that we need to follow for the healing process.”
Schmidt met with doctors on Thursday and will do so again in about six weeks, at which time he could be put on a throwing program.

Lowe ready: Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe participated in pregame stretching while wearing a bright red jersey, something reliever Jonathan Broxton had prepared for him as a joke. Football quarterbacks often wear odd-colored jerseys in practice to avoid being hit.
Lowe had been scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday night after an errant throw from Broxton hit Lowe between the thumb and index finger of his pitching hand while the two were playing catch, leaving a severe bruise. But Lowe was able to throw on Thursday and thus will be able to start on Saturday against Arizona with no restrictions.
“All I cared about was whether he was able to grip a baseball and throw it, and he was able to do that,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
Little also said Chad Billingsley and David Wells will be the starters for Tuesday’s doubleheader at Colorado and that Wells then will start on Sept. 22 at Arizona on short rest.
“Wells has gone on three days’ rest a lot in the past, so he should be fine,” Little said.

LaRoche better: Third baseman Andy LaRoche, who has been bothered intermittently all season by a protruding disc in his back, said he felt much better on Thursday. LaRoche said the problem should go away after the season, when he can rest, as long as he continues his prescribed exercise program.
“I’m not going to need surgery because it’s such a mild protrusion,” LaRoche said. “With the exercises, it could actually end up healing itself. I’m doing a lot of bending over to try to strengthen the muscles around it so I don’t put so much pressure on the disc.”

Happy birthday: Although he won’t actually turn 80 until Sept. 22, when the Dodgers are on the road, the club will celebrate Tommy Lasorda’s milestone birthday tonight by giving away Tommy Lasorda bobbleheads to the first 50,000 fans in attendance. There also will be a video montage featuring many of Lasorda’s friends and former players.

Lowe wearing red jersey

Derek Lowe is going through pregame stretching wearing a red jersey, the way football quarterbacks to do avoid being hit in practice. What would a long, monotonous baseball season be without funny gags? … By the way, those big murals of all the players the Dodgers have around the outside of the ballpark? When are they going to take down Brett Tomko?

Dodgers 6, Padres 1

Suddenly, the Dodgers don’t seem so dead anymore. Billingsley stepped up on a night when he wasn’t even supposed to pitch and turned in six solid innings. Loney went 3 for 4 with a double and a home run and now has five homers in the past six games (and they said he didn’t hit for enough power as a corner infielder). Kent homered, giving him a dozen seasons of 20 or more in his career. And the Dodgers moved into a three-way tie for second place in the wild card, 2 1/2 games behind the Pods. A win tomorrow night, and they’re 1 1/2 back. Forget the division, they’re still six out there. But this thing is a long way from being over. The boys go to 76-69. It’s a Geriatric Special on tap tomorrow night, with Wells facing Maddux. Oh, and the Dodgers WON’T face Brandon Webb in this weekend’s Arizona series. Hope springs eternal. Hasta manana.

Manufacturing a lead

Dodgers got a run in the second when Loney doubled with one out and took third when the ball skipped away from Brian Giles in the corner for an error, then scored on Russell Martin’s grounder to second on a 3-0 pitch. They got another run in the third when Furcal singled with one out, stole second and scored on Pierre’s single. What would have been a close play at the plate was foiled when Terrmel Sledge bobbled the ball in left field. Billingsley has been an adventure so far, and seems to be falling into old habits of deep pitch counts, but he hasn’t given up a run yet. Khalil Greene on second now with none out. … Dodgers 2, Padres 0, top 4

Tonight’s lineup and tomorrow’s notes

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
RF Kemp
2B Kent
1B Loney
C Martin
LF Ethier
3B Abreu
RH Billingsley

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe was scratched from his scheduled start against San Diego on Wednesday night because of continued swelling in his pitching hand after he was struck by a thrown ball during batting practice on Tuesday.
Lowe was playing long toss with reliever Jonathan Broxton when one of Broxton’s throws sailed off line and struck Lowe in the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger.
“I missed the ball,” Lowe said. “We’re trying to make the swelling go down. I had X-rays, and nothing is broken. It’s just really, really bruised and sore.”
Chad Billingsley, who had been slated to go tonight, took Lowe’s spot. David Wells will now pitch against the Padres tonight. Both Billingsley and Wells had been scheduled to pitch on six days’ rest after the Dodgers were off on Monday. Brad Penny, who also would have gone on six days’ rest Saturday, now appears likely to pitch on Friday night against Arizona.
Club officials are hoping Lowe can go on Saturday against the Diamondbacks.
“I don’t see how it could be any sooner from what I saw in (the trainer’s room),” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “But we’ll see how it progresses. The X-rays were all negative, but there is so much swelling that he is having trouble gripping a ball right now.”
Lowe is 11-12 with a 3.80 ERA in 29 starts and one relief appearance this season, and he also dealt with a groin problem that knocked him out of action for about 10 days in mid-July.
“This kind of caps off the year for me so far,” Lowe said. “It has been thrilling.”

Other injuries: Rookie third baseman Andy LaRoche is limited to pinch hitting because his chronic back problem has become an issue again. LaRoche is unable to bend over to field ground balls and thus hasn’t appeared in a game in a week.
“It’s not serious,” Little said. “He seems to be OK swinging a bat, but fielding ground balls is a little bit of a bother right now, so it will probably be a couple of days before he is available (defensively).”
Meanwhile, shortstop prospect Ivan DeJesus Jr. was at Dodger Stadium for a visit with friend and fellow Puerto Rican Ramon Martinez, but DeJesus had a bandage on his left wrist. He underwent surgery last week to repair torn ligaments he suffered when his hand collided with a sliding baserunner’s helmet late in the season at Single-A Inland Empire.
“I was going to go to (the Arizona Fall League), but now I’m just going to rest and let this heal,” DeJesus said. “I want to be 100 percent and ready for spring training.”
DeJesus, 20, was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in the 2005 amateur draft. He had a solid year with the 66ers, batting .287 with 22 doubles, 52 RBI and a .371 on-base percentage, and could be in line for an invitation to big-league camp next spring.

Happy anniversary: The Dodgers tentatively are scheduled to open the 2008 regular season with a two-game series at home against San Francisco, something the club is believed to have requested of the commissioner’s office. The Dodgers and Giants next season will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their respective moves from New York to the West Coast.
Dodgers president Jamie McCourt unveiled plans on Wednesday for the Dodgers’ season-long celebration, which will include commemorations of each decade the Dodgers have been in Los Angeles on a monthly basis beginning with a commemoration of the 1950s in April, the ’60s in May and so on and so forth through August. There then will be a reunion of “Dodgers legends” in September.
The club will be getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first such honor ever bestowed on a major-league ballclub, and will have a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade for the first time on Jan. 1, 2008. The Dodgers also will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1988 World Series championship team.

Lowe out tonight

He got hit in the hand by a throw from Broxton during BP yesterday and has been scratched for tonight. Billingsley is pitching, with Wells going tomorrow. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Penny is slated to go Friday, but Lowe could be slotted in there if he is ready. … Just had a big press conference to announce all the exciting plans for next year’s 50th anniversary of the move. The Dodgers are tentatively scheduled to open at home with the Giants (no date so far), which is perfect since the clubs moved West together in 1958. The Dodgers will commemmorate the ’50s in April, the ’60s in May, the ’70s in June, the ’80s in July, the ’90s (celebrate what, exactly?) in August and in September, they will have a reunion of Dodgers legends. Also, the Dodgers are getting a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and will have a float in this year’s (or is it next year’s? anyway, it’s Jan. 1, 2008) Tournament of Roses Parade.

Padres 9, Dodgers 4

No place that I know of to look this up, but the Dodgers have to lead the league in innings in which they had the bases loaded with nobody out and failed to score. They feigned like they were going to get back into this game, as Kevin Cameron came on to start the eighth inning for the Pods and didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced. Jeff Kent chased him with a single to load them up after Loney singled in Furcal, who had snapped his hitless streak at 20 at-bats with a little nubber in front of the plate that no one could get to. Anyway, Joe Thatcher then got Olmedo Saenz to line out, and Heath Bell got Matt Kemp to strike out. Kemp, by the way, is now 0 for 6 for the season with the bases loaded. Andre Ethier then tried to dive into first base on a ball that skipped off the glove of Adrian Gonzalez but that Geoff Blum picked up in time. Mark Carlson called Ethier out at first, and the threat was over. … Adding insult to injury was the fact Brett Tomko finished it off for the Pods in the ninth — but not before giving up Chin-lung Hu’s first ML homer. … Dodgers fall to 75-69 and 3 1/2 back in the wild card. Turn out the lights.

Why do the Dodgers have 36 players …

… if they aren’t going to use them? By the bottom of the second inning, Esteban Loaiza already had given up four runs, and the Dodgers already trailed 4-0 But after Jeff Kent’s leadoff single and Gonzo’s walk, it looked like the Dodgers might have a crack at Peavy. Well, after Russell Martin grounded out, advancing the runners, and Andre Ethier struck out, the Padres predictably walked Nomar intentionally (he IS hitting .400 w/RISP, after all). So, with Loaiza’s spot due up, what does Grady do with all those arms in his bullpen and all those bats on his bench? Why, let Loaiza hit for himself of course. Loaiza predictably struck out, leaving the bases loaded. He then went back to the mound and gave up back-to-back homers to Khalil Greene and Keven Kouzmanoff with one out in the third. When Brian Giles singled with one out in the fourth, Grady FINALLY came to get Loaiza. What is Grady saving his bench and his pen for? Those last two weeks of the season, when the Dodgers are going to be playing out the string? … Loney went deep in the third, but this one’s over, folks. … Padres 6, Dodgers 1, bottom 4

Tonight’s lineup

Gonzo is 18 for 51 with four HR and 12 RBI, not to mention seven walks and eight strikeouts, against Peavy. So he is in there tonight. Of course, Gonzo went 0 for 3 with two K’s the last time the Dodgers faced Peavy, on Sept. 1

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
1B Loney
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
C Martin
RF Ethier
3B Nomar
RH Loaiza

Giants 4, Dodgers 2

The boys blew a golden opportunity to gain ground in the wild card after San Diego lost at Colorado. They also blew this game in the bottom of the eighth inning. Penny gave up a leadoff double to Kevin Frandsen and, in a scene eerily reminiscent of Grady’s decision to lift Billingsley possibly too early on Friday night, he came to get Penny at that point after he had thrown just 82 pitches. Although Proctor then struck out Randy Winn (after wild-pitching Frandsen to third), Beimel fell behind Bonds 2-0, then intentionally walked him. Broxton then gave up a three-run dinger to Ray Durham. Broxton has now given up three home runs in the past four days after giving up one in the previous 13 months. … Dodgers fall to 75-68 and remain 2 1/2 back of the Pods in the wild card (now third behind Philly) and at least 4 1/2 back in the division. Snakes are losing 4-2 right now. … Dodgers have lost three of their five series with the last-place Giants this year, even though they have still won nine of 15 from them overall.