By Tony Jackson
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.