Jason Schmidt has been maligned by many. Most Dodger fans felt cheated that he took $30 million of Frank McCourt’s money and produced ZIP! Some felt that he didn’t really care or was just intent on collecting his paycheck. Now, it turns out that after missing nearly two years of pitching, it may be that Jason Schmidt didn’t have to miss all that time… if only the doctors had listened to him in the first place! Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com broke the story when he wrote:
Jason Schmidt told them so.
Before doctors operated on his labrum, bursa sac and biceps tendon in June 2007, he told them the pain he felt was located somewhere else altogether, in the acromio-clavicular joint, where the collarbone meets the scapula (shoulder blade) at the top of the shoulder.
Armed with the most sophisticated diagnostic equipment known to sports medicine, doctors told Schmidt to stick to pitching and they would handle the surgery.
But Schmidt was right. The pain persisted after the first operation and despite several false starts on the rehab trail, he never made it back to the Major Leagues last year.
It wasn’t until doctors removed the arthritic tip of the clavicle last September that Schmidt noticed “instant relief.” Now, he said, he wants his starting job back and he’s physically capable of doing it.
“Last year, I had to talk myself into it. I felt all right, but I wasn’t the same,” he said. “Now, it feels better than it did. There are still a lot of unknowns. But it’s definitely night and day from last year.”
It turns out Jason Schmidt was right, and if anyone questions his will to pitch, consider what Gurnick writes next:
Schmidt was the first Dodgers pitcher on a mound when they gathered for bullpen sessions on Saturday at the club’s new Camelback Ranch-Glendale complex, the lack of hesitation symbolic of his renewed optimism.
“There’s no stretching, no heat pack, no message. He can feel natural again and that’s a great sign,” said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who monitored Schmidt’s session. “A pitcher knows how his arm feels. Now, he’s working without any maintenance. There’s a lot of freedom for him to just go out there and be one of the guys again.”
Manager Joe Torre indicated the 36-year-old right-hander is the favorite for the fifth-starting spot in the rotation. The cattle call of competitors includes Eric Stults, Claudio Vargas, Ramon Troncoso, Shawn Estes, Eric Milton and possibly Jeff Weaver, James McDonald and Scott Elbert.
“I’d like to believe that,” Torre said of Schmidt being his fifth starter. “You don’t say for sure, because he hasn’t competed in so long. But I hope he can be that guy because of his experience. He’s got to work his way back, not earn his way, but work his way to be comfortable competing again. He seems to be fine.”
It’s Year 2 of the comeback, but Schmidt is starting this one with something else he didn’t have last spring: a smile.
Schmidt said he wants to be on the same throwing program as any healthy pitcher in camp, although he concedes that management will be careful not to push him too far too soon, as Honeycutt has said. Schmidt has thrown off a mound five times in the past two weeks.
“From Day 1, I feel I can keep up,” he said. “I want to get out there and let my kids see me pitch. I have a 5-year-old who’s never seen me pitch before. That’s a big motivation right there.”
While we really won’t know for a while if his velocity is back or if his shoulder will hold up, all indications, including his attitude are positive. On a pitching staff who has lost Greg Maddux, Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, a healthy Jason Schmidt could go a long way in making 2009 a magical season for the Dodgers. Imagine an ace in your #5 spot … Just imagine!
- Pitchers & Catchers and Matt Kemp, Chin-lung Hu, Juan Castro and Delwyn Young reported Saturday. It’s good to see Matt Kemp reporting early. That attitude bodes well for the Dodgers.
- Dylan Hernandez of The LA Times has a good article on the state of the Dodgers starting pitching.
- Hernandez also reports that Chad Billingsley, when asked about his melt-down in the playoff and failure to pitch inside after Brett Myers threw at Martin and Manny, sait that f he were to do it over, “I may have thrown inside a little bit more instead of letting the hitters be a little bit more comfortable at the plate.” Pitching inside more often may be all that stands between C-Bill and a Cy Young.
- Hernandez also writes: “As for Kemp, among the Dodgers’ nucleus of young players, no one creates as much buzz among opposing scouts. Because of his great potential, observers tend to focus on what Kemp could do instead of what he’s actually doing. But he showed substantial improvement last season (.290, 18 home runs, 76 runs batted in, 35 steals) and could make another leap this year. He could turn into the game-changer that the Dodgers need if Ramirez opts to sign elsewhere.”
- Diamond Leung reported this: Billingsley said his goal for this season was to reach about 220 innings. He also appears to be a little trimmer this year. “You can’t just sit there and eat junk food (while rehabbing),” he said.
- Leung also wrote that Scott Elbert said his surgically repaired shoulder: “is the strongest it’s ever been.”
- Finally, a sad story about the Sacred Ground of Dodgertown from the AP.