When Jason Schmidt pitches Monday night, not all eyes will be on him
With pitcher Jason Schmidt scheduled to make his first start in more than two years tonight, how will his infielders adjust to having him on the mound?
By paying little attention to Schmidt’s windup and other movements on the mound, said second baseman Orlando Hudson and third baseman Casey Blake.
The veterans said they’ll concentrate on the location of Schmidt’s pitches against the Cincinnati Reds to possibly gain a step in the right direction once the ball is hit.
“You have to see what they’re doing that day, if they’re hitting their spots,” Hudson, a three-time Gold Glove award winner, said of pitchers. “Even if you’ve played with them for a while, you’ve still got to see if they’re hitting their spots that day.”
If the pitcher’s location is good, the infielders can gain a defensive edge because they can shift depending on whether the pitch is a fastball or breaking ball, Hudson said. If not, they’re often at a disadvantage.
The pitcher’s motion, Hudson said, “has nothing to do with it. I don’t care if they’re throwing it off the top of their head.”
Blake said the infielders also can’t be concerned about the uncertainty surrounding Schmidt’s effectiveness because of the 36-year-old right-hander’s long absence from the big leagues.
“You don’t know how he’s going to be, but you can’t worry about that,” Blake said.
“As soon as he starts into his motion, I’ll go looking into the hitting zone,” Blake said. “Obviously you have to know how quick his windup is, but that’s about it. I won’t sit there and watch him.”
The infielders also meet to talk about the opposing team’s batters before each series, “and a lot of times we’ll tell the infielders to really keep an eye on the count,” said Manager Joe Torre.
“If the hitter has a count in his favor, you may favor him a little more on the pull side and vice versa,” Torre said.
One big question surrounding Schmidt is whether, after the former All-Star’s long rehabilitation following shoulder surgery, he can get batters out despite losing some velocity on his pitches.
“There have been plenty of guys that have been able to reinvent themselves as a pitcher,” said Dodgers trainer Stan Conte, who held the same job in San Francisco when Schmidt pitched for the Giants.
“Jason will get that opportunity, and we’ll see what we see, whether or not the shoulder can hold up and whether he can be effective at a major-league level,” Conte said.
Schmidt wasn’t available for comment Sunday, but Torre said Schmidt’s start was likely to “be an emotional one,” and Conte said of Schmidt: “He’s anxious.”
Scott Elbert, who was training to be a starting pitcher in the minor leagues but is now in the bullpen for the big-league team, is off to a good start as a reliever.
The left-hander has thrown five shutout innings in three appearances since being called up a week ago, including two scoreless innings Friday night against the Astros.
“I feel good, just trying to stay within myself, keep the ball down and get ahead of guys and let my pitches work for me instead of trying to do too much,” said Elbert, 23.
The Dodgers said Wednesday’s game against the Reds, featuring a giveaway of Manny Ramirez bobblehead dolls, is sold out.