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Feeling no pain, Schmidt has an MRI

Times Staff Writer

Although struggling starter Jason Schmidt said he wasn’t feeling pain, his lackluster fastball prompted the Dodgers to have him take an MRI to examine his entire arm Monday.

“We are exploring every area,” Manager Grady Little said. “We’ve had coaches, players and his former coaches look at video of him, trying to reconstruct his mechanics from square one.”

Schmidt, who lasted only two innings in his last start, postponed his bullpen session from Monday until today, raising the question of whether the Dodgers would push back his next start.

He is supposed to pitch Thursday at Colorado, against which he has a career earned-run average of 5.06. He has a 2.37 ERA against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who begin a three-game series at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

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Because there is no off day this week, the Dodgers would hand a start to someone in their bullpen to give Schmidt an extra day. Mark Hendrickson, a former starter who has given up one run in 11 innings of relief, would be the likely candidate.

Little stressed that there is no known medical reason for Schmidt’s reduced velocity. However, Schmidt didn’t throw at all Monday, even tossing balls underhand from the outfield to the infield during batting practice.

“It’s difficult any time a player isn’t performing up to the level you are used to seeing,” Little said. “Sometimes players just start slowly and work into the height of their season.”

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A weight has been lifted from Andre Ethier’s shoulder -- even though the bat he rests on it has gotten heavier.

The end of his early-season slump coincided with switching back to the heavier bat he used last season when he hit a team-leading .308. He went from a 31-ounce bat to a 32 and rapped out five hits in a row beginning Sunday.

By the end of the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, Ethier had raised his average from .143 to .276 in two days.

“I tried different bats all spring and during the first few games of the season,” he said. “The lighter bats felt good to swing, but the results weren’t so great.

“It’s good sometimes to experiment, but there’s no reason not to go with what gave me success.”

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Two young Dodgers on the disabled list -- outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo -- say they are about ready to return.

Kemp, who suffered a separated right shoulder banging into the wall at Dodger Stadium a week ago, took batting practice on the field for the first time and had no discomfort. Although he must sit out seven more games before he is eligible to return, he said, “I could pinch-hit right now and probably play in the field.”

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Kuo, who injured his shoulder March 21, is eligible to come off the disabled list whenever he is ready, which might not be much longer. He will throw a 60- to 70-pitch bullpen session today and could begin pitching at triple-A Las Vegas in a week or two.

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With a home run and a double, first baseman Nomar Garciaparra had his fifth two-hit game in the last six, his batting average rising from .154 to .306.... Third baseman Wilson Betemit’s double in the fourth inning was his first hit since the second game of the season, a span of 18 hitless at-bats.... General Manager Ned Colletti turned 53.

steve.henson@latimes.com


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