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Schmidt makes long-awaited return

Schmidt makes long-awaited return

LOS ANGELES -- There had to be plenty of thoughts running through Jason Schmidt's mind as threw in left field at Dodger Stadium after the Dodgers' 4-3 win Sunday, preparing for his first start in the Majors since June 2007.

Does he still have what it takes to succeed at this level after having extensive work done on his right arm? On June 20, 2007, Dr. Neal ElAttrache repaired a labrum tear, a frayed biceps tendon and cleaned up scarring in the bursa sac.

Schmidt signed a three-year, $47 million deal with the Dodgers after the 2006 season, but he's started only six games for the Dodgers, going 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA.

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Schmidt wasn't in the Dodgers' clubhouse before Sunday's game against the Houston Astros, so reporters weren't able to get a feel for what he was going through before his Monday start. But a couple of Dodgers pitchers have endured lengthy stints on the disabled list, and they shed light on what Schmidt might be thinking.

"That's a great question," said Randy Wolf, who missed half of the 2005 and 2006 seasons after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.

"I think everybody's different. He was out for a long time. I think it's going to be nice to come back and actually feel like he's useful again. A lot of things run through your mind, like wondering if you can still do it. Probably how he's going to feel physically, a lot of things."

Wolf said that when he made his first start back from injury on July 30, 2006, he wasn't particularly nervous about how he was going to perform.

"I was just happy to be back," Wolf said. "I didn't have any apprehensions or anything like that. You have a little more butterflies because it had been a while."

Wolf said that it wasn't until the following season until he felt comfortable back on the mound.

"With my elbow, I came back in late July. I had two months of starts and I felt strong but I just didn't feel right," he said. "It took probably until April or May of the next year to feel totally fine."

Eric Milton is another Dodger who has missed extensive time because of Tommy John surgery. Milton spent two years recovering from the operation and went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in five starts for the Dodgers this season.

"I'm sure [Schmidt's] excited," said Milton, who likely will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to remove a herniated disk on Tuesday.

"I know I've spent with him this spring and this summer and he's worked hard to get here."

In Schmidt's case, an important thing to watch Monday is his velocity. During his heyday, Schmidt was among the league's premier power pitchers, but injuries have derailed that aspect of his game. Now he has to rely more on control, and has to "pitch within his ability," as Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Saturday.

He can't blow past hitters any longer.

"This is the whole remaking of a guy really," Torre said before Sunday's game.

In rehab stints this year, Schmidt went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts for Class A Inland Empire and 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA in six appearances (five starts) for Triple-A Albuquerque.

"I just want to watch how comfortable he is," Torre said after. "I'm sure it's going to be emotionally charged for him.

" ... Once he gets into the flow of the game, you're going to see the same guy he always was, without the velocity he once had. He knows how to pitch, and he certainly knows how to handle that stuff."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Jason Schmidt (0-0, -.-- ERA)
It will be Schmidt's first Major League outing since June 16, 2007. Two shoulder surgeries and two years of rehab later, Schmidt returns to the mound as the Dodgers need a fifth starter and are curious to see if Schmidt has anything left. He's made five consecutive starts on regular rest in the Minor Leagues, the longest he's gone without interruption.

CIN: RHP Micah Owings (6-9, 4.94 ERA)
In his last start, Owings allowed seven earned runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings with four walks and one strikeout as the Reds dropped a 9-6 defeat to the Phillies. He was given leads of 3-0 and 6-4 and was unable to hold it.

Tidbits
The four runs scored by Matt Kemp on Sunday equaled his career high. ... The Dodgers' win Sunday was their 18th in their last at-bat. ... The Dodgers are a season-high 24 games above .500. ... Andre Ethier went 3-for-4 on Sunday after going just 3-for-16 in his previous four games with an at-bat.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• PRIME

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 4-4, 3.51) vs. Reds (Homer Bailey, 1-1, 6.43), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 9-5, 3.76) vs. Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 10-8, 5.07), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Off-day

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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