LOS ANGELES -- Brett Tomko took the news of his removal from the starting rotation like a disappointed professional who wasn't about to make waves on a first-place team. "What can I do?" he asked rhetorically. "All I can do is pitch. I understand the decision. Am I happy about it? Of course not. But I understand the situation -- with Kuo available and the fact that I pitched well out of the bullpen last year and with [Chin-hui] Tsao down. I get it. What I'm going to do is just pitch as well as I can." Tomko, who won the fifth-starter job after Kuo was injured in Spring Training, went 1-5 with a 5.95 ERA in eight starts. Tomko allowed two runs in his first two starts, both Dodgers wins, and he had quality starts in three of his first four appearances but wasn't credited with a win until May 9 in Florida. He gave up four home runs in his last three starts, and the heat was turned up when he allowed eight runs in 2 1/3 innings to the Cardinals on May 14.
Tomko opened last season going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA as a starter. He tailed off and then strained an oblique muscle. Upon his return, he volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen and did well for the first month, allowing two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. But he had a trip that undermined his season -- a Sept. 9 blown save at Shea Stadium and a pair of bad outings at Wrigley Field in losses on Sept. 12 and 14. Tomko was charged with six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in that Cubs series or his 3.64 ERA as a reliever for the year would have been 1.84. Tomko's two postseason appearances were equally forgettable. Manager Grady Little is clearly leaning toward starting Kuo next Saturday in Pittsburgh, the next time Tomko's spot comes around, but that's contingent on Kuo's scheduled start on Monday for Triple-A Las Vegas. If not Kuo, Little indicated long reliever Chad Billingsley was next in line. Schmidt scratched: Disabled pitcher Jason Schmidt's planned simulated game was postponed because he came down with flu-like symptoms. Little said he expected Schmidt to need "a couple of days" to recover, so he might not face hitters until next week when the club is in Washington. Valdez remains: Infielder Wilson Valdez cleared waivers and will remain in the organization after being outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Valdez was designated for assignment on May 15 to make room for the promotion of Kuo. Redefinition: When the Dodgers talk about their rotation, it's not necessarily starting pitchers. Little continues his quest to find the right lineup mix by rotating his young players. On Friday night, Tony Abreu started at third base. For Saturday's day game, Abreu is expected to start at second base while Jeff Kent rests, and Wilson Betemit is set to man third. On Sunday, Little is considering experimenting with Andy LaRoche in right field. LaRoche played some outfield at Triple-A Las Vegas this year. Rehab: Marlon Anderson, who underwent elbow surgery May 10, is already throwing fairly aggressively. He is expected to miss two months. Eric who? Takashi Saito has converted 38 of his first 40 career save chances, which, according to STATS, LLC, ties him with Eric Gagne for the best percentage in the first 40 opportunities since the save became an official statistic in 1969. Saito pitched a scoreless ninth on Tuesday to lower his ERA to 1.71. Jonathan Broxton ranks third on that list with a 1.08 ERA. Saito has converted his last 24 save opportunities dating back to 2006, the third-longest active streak in the Majors, behind Atlanta's Mike Gonzalez and New York's Billy Wagner, who each have 29 straight saves. Magazine subscriptions available: Subscriptions for the monthly Dodgers Magazine are now available online at www.dodgers.com and via a toll-free number. The annual subscription includes seven issues (April-October) along with the annual Dodgers Yearbook. The 2007 Yearbook features broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin on the cover, marking the first time Scully and Jarrin have ever appeared on the cover of a Dodgers publication. Fans who subscribe between now and the end of May will receive a package in mid-June containing the first three issues of this year's Dodgers Magazine, including April's 60th anniversary commemorative issue honoring Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier. Subscribers will have the Dodgers Magazine mailed to their homes each month after that. To order, go to www.dodgers.com/magazine and fill out the order form or call 1-877-BLUE-062. Subscribers will receive two vouchers for $5 off Reserve Level tickets for their next trip to Dodger Stadium. Coming up: In Saturday's 12:55 p.m. PT game at Dodger Stadium, Mark Hendrickson (2-1, 3.22 ERA) opposes Carlos Zambrano (4-4, 5.61).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.