Pitching updates

Jason Schmidt won’t pitch in a Grapefruit League game until after he pitches in a simulated game on the minor-league side, and Joe Torre said he isn’t sure when that will be. But Jason remains right on track in his rehab, and if he doesn’t suffer any kind of setback (which he hasn’t come close to suffering yet), it’s tough to imagine he won’t be ready to join the rotation by the start of the season. As for spring training, Torre said, “I don’t think it’s when he pitches. It’s more about how he feels.” … Takashi Saito won’t make his Grapefruit debut until March 4, when the Dodgers play a day-night split squad, but he will pitch in a minor-league game on March 1. Closers generally need the least amount of appearances of anybody in spring training because they rarely pitch more than an inning during the season anyway. Eric Gagne used to make about eight Grapefruit appearances and call it good.

Dodgers Idol

This Wednesday and Thursday mornings, anyone who is in their first big-league camp — not just players, but peripheral team personnel, as well — will be forced to participate in Dodgers Idol, a signing competition put together by Mark Sweeney and Nomar Garciaparra and approved by Joe Torre.
“We’re just going to have fun with it,” Sweeney said. “The veteran guys will see a little bit of their personalities. … Hopefully, it will build a comfort level for some of the younger guys, because it can be a little uncomfortable being here when you have never been to big-league camp before.”
Participants also will be asked to don costumes of their own choosing for their performances, which also will consist of songs of their own choosing.
Sweeney said there won’t be an official contest winner, a la American Idol, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an unofficial one.
“There will be a favorite, I know that,” Sweeney said. “But the most important thing is for everybody to have a good time with it.”

Baseball boogie

Someone dug up this old video and showed it in the Dodgers’ daily morning meeting yesterday. It was made in, we believe, about 1986, and it features several Dodgers players of that era — including current coaches Rick Honeycutt, Ken Howell and Mariano Duncan and present Angels manager Mike Scioscia — dancing in satin jackets to some horrendous rap-type song, with some dancing girls thrown in as well.


Frank Torre visits

Actually, it was his second time here, but I missed him the first time. He lives about 90 minutes south of here in Palm Beach Gardens. Today, he was riding around with Lasorda on Tommy’s golf cart during the intrasquad game, and Tommy introduced me. Joe later told us that Frank would stay with him for three weeks at a time during spring training in Tampa when Joe was managing the Yankees. Frank, a former first baseman for the Braves and Phillies, is 76. “When he would give me a compliment, it meant more than anything else in the world, because he was tough,” Joe said of his older brother. … The intrasquad game was about as interesting as these things tend to be for the press box wags, but for club officials, it was the unofficial first day of evaluation. The home team, knows as the Drysdales, beat the Koufaxes 5-1. John Lindsey went 3 for 3 with a double and two runs. Chin-lung Hu went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles. Matt Kemp tripled and scored on Xavier Paul’s sac fly.

Daily tidbits

Carl Loewenstine, a major-league scout for the Dodgers for the past 28 years, told me this morning he will retire after the upcoming season. Carl is one of my favorite people in the organization. He lives in the Cincinnati area and has been battling cancer for the past couple of years, and while the treatment has slowed him down somewhat, he still looks great and remains in great spirits. Said he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. … Yhency Brazoban’s recovery from shoulder surgery has progressed to the point that he now will throw every other day. He is expected to be ready by the start of the regular season. … The Dodgers signed five of their “zero-to-three” guys: Pitchers Jonathan Broxton and Eric Stults, catcher Lucas May, infielder Chin-lung Hu and outfielder Matt Kemp. Just to clarify, these are players on the 40-man roster who are not yet eligible for arbitration. They generally are paid somewhere between the major-league minimum ($390,000) for first-year 40-man guys to the $500,000-$600,000 range for guys with at least two years, with little regard for performance. Clubs attempt to negotiate agreements with these players, and as far as I can remember, the Dodgers have been able to do that with every such player since I have been on the beat. But those players who don’t agree to terms can simply be renewed at a salary of the club’s choosing when the renewal period begins, usually on March 2. There are several more of these players still unsigned, but that doesn’t signify contentious negotiations. Just means the club hasn’t gotten around to signing them yet.

Feeling hot, hot, hot

I realize this won’t mean much to those of you back in Los Angeles, but I also know this blog has something of a following around the country, and for those who are dealing with winter storms … all I can say is, wish you were here. It’s going hit the high 80s today, a lot of sun, a lot of humidity, a lot of old men wearing plaid shorts with black socks and sandals. I felt it as soon as I walked out of my rented condo this morning, and that was a little before 8. Expecting a long workout today, with any pitcher who hasn’t done so yet throwing live batting practice for the first time. There is a mini-intrasquad game tomorrow (five innings), which will be informal, but it will signal the official start of the evaluation period for team officials. Things are heating up around here, and I don’t just mean the weather.

Baby updates

Traci Repko gave birth, as expected, to a baby boy yesterday up in Washington state. It weighed seven pounds and was named Tyler Jason Repko. His father is expected back in camp in the next day or so. Meanwhile, the Garciaparra twins, Ava and Grace, who will turn a year old on March 27, made their first Dodgertown appearance, being pushed around the back fields in a double stroller this morning by their mother, Mia Hamm. One of the most famous athletes in the world, Mia nevertheless seemed to move about unfettered. It might have helped that a few feet away, a long line had formed at a table where Tommy Lasorda was signing autographs. Forget the estimated $115 million Frank McCourt is spending on this team. Forget the club’s ballyhooed new manager Joe Torre. After all these years, Tommy still owns Dodgertown — and a case could be made that he is still the biggest star here.

Delwyn Young to start working out at 3B

Torre says it will create more versatility for a guy who is out of minor-league options and a virtual lock to make the club as a fifth outfielder. Delwyn already is taking grounders at 2B, his original position before moving to the outfield. “Obviously, it could help the ballclub, especially in the National League where you don’t have the DH,” Torre said. “We want to get him back into the infield mix. He started as a second baseman. We just want him to be a guy who has a few different gloves in his locker.” … Short workout today, which Joe said was only because yesterday’s was so long. There will be a longer one tomorrow, then a five-inning intrasquad on Sunday, with a seven-inning intrasquad to follow on Tuesday. That means tomorrow and Monday are the only pure workout days left, because there is a simulated game Wed and the Grapefruit League begins on Thursday against Atlanta.

Penny APPEARS to be opening-day starter

Josh Rawitch stopped by the work room a few minutes ago to give us the pitching plans for the Dodgers’ intrasquad game on Feb. 26, a simulated game on Feb. 27 and the first two Grapefruit League games with the Braves on Feb. 28-29. Brad Penny will start the intrasquad. Derek Lowe will start the simulated game (opposed by Eric Stults). Chad Billingsley will start against the Braves on the 28th. Hiroki Kuroda will start at the Braves on the 29th. While that would SEEM to suggest that is the season-opening rotation, Josh said that Joe Torre and Rick Honeycutt told him to tell us not to read that much into it. It IS early, and a lot could change between now and opening day. But still, there has to be a reason why this is how they’re starting out.

Congrats to Dr. Jobe

Dr. Frank Jobe, the world famous orthopedist and longtime Dodgers team physician who invented the now commonly performed Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, has been promoted to special advisor to Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt. What that means isn’t entirely clear, but it does mean the good doctor is being rewarded for his unprecendented and unmatched contributions to the field of sports medicine. “That (new role) hasn’t been completely defined yet,” Jobe said. “When Mr. McCourt comes to camp, we’re going to discuss the details of it.” Jobe said he doesn’t plan to actively practice medicine in the future, but he will continue to see patients on a consultant basis and make recommendations.