07/22/09 3:04 AM ET
Injured Dodgers relievers nearing return
Bullpen trio could be back sooner than expected
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a scoreless inning at Class A Inland Empire on Tuesday night, the first time he's pitched on consecutive days this year.
"If he throws well, he'll get two days off and pitch again Friday, then we'll see," manager Joe Torre said Tuesday. "He'll probably go on the next trip."
Meaning, Kuo could be activated before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Meanwhile, disabled relievers Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade threw initial bullpen sessions Tuesday, Belisario testing his elbow and Wade his shoulder. Torre said both could be on rehab assignments by next week.
Jason Schmidt came out of his first start in two years Monday with no physical complaints and Torre gave every indication that Schmidt will start again.
"I'm under the assumption we'll send him back out," Torre said. "I don't think we're going to skip anybody [with Thursday's day off]. We haven't totally made that decision, but that's what we're leaning toward. He seems to be fine."
Schmidt was noticeably upbeat chatting with reporters Tuesday and Torre was happy for him. However, the fact that Schmidt lasted only five innings put further stress on the bullpen. Torre is hopeful the 35-pitch freakish first inning was an anomaly and was buoyed by the fact that Schmidt allowed only one ground-ball hit over the final 4 2/3 innings of his start against the Reds.
Nonetheless, Torre said the repeated warmups of James McDonald, which started in the first inning, took their toll on McDonald by his third inning of work.
"We overdid it with McDonald," said Torre, who then used setup man Ramon Troncoso and closer Jonathan Broxton each for the third consecutive day, making their availability for Tuesday night's game uncertain.
Doug Mientkiewicz, well ahead of schedule in his recovery from surgery for a dislocated shoulder, heads for the club's Arizona training facility to prepare for game action. Torre said Mientkiewicz will reclaim his roster spot when healthy.
"Our concern is not his offense -- we could put him in as designated hitter or pinch-hitter -- but we need more than that," Torre said. "He's on this team. To me, he's valuable to us. That's why he made the club in the spring. He gives us flexibility."
Mientkiewicz would fill the utility role currently handled by Blake DeWitt, whom Torre wants to play every day at Triple-A.
"I'm not comfortable with what we're doing with him," Torre said of DeWitt. "What concerns me more than the psyche is that he needs to play more baseball and I'm sure we'll address it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.