LOS ANGELES -- Jason Schmidt is far enough along in his rehab from right shoulder bursitis that manager Grady Little wanted to see for himself. Little took a chair in the bullpen on Wednesday to watch Schmidt's 50-pitch throwing session and said, as he has for weeks, that the right-hander is progressing. "He threw all of his pitches, pain-free and had life on his pitches," said Little. "But he's got a ways to go. You can tell the stamina is not there. Next time we'll increase the load a little."
Trainer Stan Conte said he will hold his breath to see how Schmidt feels the day after. "With Jason Schmidt," said Conte, "I'll hold my breath until the end of October." That's because, without actually probing the shoulder surgically, there is no way to be certain what was causing the inflammation or the dramatic decrease in velocity that put him on the disabled list a month ago. After an MRI revealed no obvious structural damage, Conte's strategy was to shut down the irritated area until it cleared, while building strength throughout the shoulder. Schmidt's extensive long-tossing exercise on Tuesday was a positive indicator. When it was suggested to Schmidt that he couldn't have thrown a ball 275 feet a month ago, he said: "I couldn't have done that last year." Conte, Schmidt's trainer with the Giants last year, agreed. "At the end of last year, that's probably true, and this spring, I never saw him do that," he said. "In the bullpen in the spring, it looked like he was always working on pitches. He wasn't letting it go; it didn't have the pop it does now. That's encouraging. I still hold my breath each day." Conte said one long-toss drill, requiring Schmidt to skip his throw to the trainer, is designed to get Schmidt to work on extending the arm just before releasing the ball. "That extension is what gives the fastball life at the end," Conte said. "That's what we saw today with his last 15 pitches." Another good sign is that Schmidt spent Wednesday's first 30 throws on sliders and changeups, then he cut loose with fastballs while pitching out of the stretch. "Now he's thinking more about pitching than rehab," Conte said. "With that said, there's less trees, but we're still not out of the forest." Schmidt's return is still likely to be weeks away. Designated hitter: Little said Olmedo Saenz would be the Dodgers' designated hitter on Friday night against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana and would fill that role in at least one, if not both, of the other games in the series. The Angels are starting right-handers all three games. However, Little said he's also considering using Wilson Betemit as designated hitter on Saturday night against Jered Weaver. Betemit is the only left-handed-hitting bench player on the roster and left-handed hitters are batting .356 against Weaver, compared to .211 for right-handers. Minor League honors: Class A Inland Empire catcher Lucas May has been named the organization's player of the month for April, while Class A Great Lakes pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Francisco Felix have been selected as the co-pitchers of the month for April, according to Dodgers director of player development De Jon Watson. May finished the month leading all Dodgers Minor Leaguers with eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .667 slugging percentage. The converted infielder also batted .333 (34-for-102) with 21 runs scored, six doubles and two triples in 25 games played during April. Kershaw, the Dodgers' first-round pick (No. 10 overall) in last year's First-Year Player Draft, baffled Midwest League hitters, going 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 35 strikeouts in five starts during April. Opponents hit just .188 against the hard-throwing left-hander and the Loons were 4-1 in his starts. The 19-year-old's most dominating start came on April 24 against Cedar Rapids, when he went six innings and gave up just one run, three hits and a walk while striking out a season-high 12 batters. Felix was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2003 and began his fifth year as part of the Dodgers organization in spectacular fashion, allowing just one earned run in 18 2/3 innings for an organization-best 0.48 ERA in the month of April. Batters hit .145 against the right-hander, and he struck out 23 while walking just three in six games. Elite company: With his Monday night homer, Jeff Kent became the 16th player in Major League history to register 350 homers and 500 doubles in his career and the third to have played for the Dodgers, joining Eddie Murray (504 homers, 560 doubles) and Frank Robinson (586 homers, 528 doubles). Luis Gonzalez could join the exclusive club later this season, as he has 335 homers and 551 doubles. Kent is tied with Chili Davis for 74th on the all-time home run list, one behind St. Louis' Jim Edmonds and Dick Allen Arias injured: Marlon Arias, who threw a no-hitter for Inland Empire last week, left his next start after one inning with a shoulder injury. Coming up: After a day off on Thursday, the Dodgers open Interleague Play on Friday night in Anaheim against the Angels. Brad Penny (5-0, 1.39 ERA) opposes Santana (2-5, 5.51).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.