Notes: Gonzalez to visit old friends

Notes: Gonzalez to visit old friends

LOS ANGELES -- Luis Gonzalez returns Monday night to the scene of his greatest triumph and most bitter departure.

The man who delivered the clinching RBI single in the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series win will be in the opposing Dodgers' lineup Monday night at Chase Field for the start of a two-game series.

They way Gonzalez offers "no comments" when asked about the ugly way he was not invited back pretty well indicates the lingering bitterness, but he's too upbeat to focus on that.

"I spent a lot of years there, fun years, but to be honest, I'm very happy here," said Gonzalez, who played eight years in Arizona before signing with the Dodgers. "I was disappointed I wasn't in their plans to stay there, but that's part of the game. I had a great send-off."

Gonzalez saw his former agent, Jeff Moorad, become an ownership partner. The managing general partner, Ken Kendrick, made controversial comments during last season about Gonzalez's drop in power.

Despite that, Gonzalez said he is eager to renew acquaintances with the player parking lot attendant, the elevator operator and the clubhouse attendants, among others.

"It's going to be nice to be back there," he said. "It's especially nice because that's where I live now. I have great friends there. I'll get to meet my kids at school and have lunch with them."

He is curious, however, to see the organization's new look, which includes a color scheme change at Chase Field and on the D-backs' uniforms.

"It'll be old-home week, except for the Houston Astros colors on the other side," he said.

Said Arizona manager Bob Melvin: "It'll be funny seeing him out there. I've watched TV. I've seen him out there in Dodger blue, so it's not going to be like it'll be a complete surprise. Yet you're used to seeing him out there in purple pinstripes and we're not in purple pinstripes anymore. Once you get the first game off the ledger with him out there, then it's just back to business."

What's wrong with Schmidt? Besides the dramatic drop in velocity and lack of effectiveness, nobody has an answer. Right-hander Jason Schmidt has told the club he isn't injured.

"We've asked if he's all right and he's told us yes, so we work with what we've got," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

"Today we looked at some tapes and we think we saw a few things mechanically that he can do to get in better position. We just know it's not coming out the way it should. Hopefully, it's a small issue mechanically that can be adjusted and things can start falling into place, and he can get back on track. He says he's OK, so we'll keep battling through it."

Manager Grady Little indicated he wasn't even close to anything as dramatic as dropping Schmidt from the rotation, despite a 7.36 ERA. When asked how long he would stick with the right-hander, Little said: "I think it would be a while, probably 32 or 33 starts."

Schmidt has a regularly scheduled bullpen session Monday in Phoenix.

What's wrong with Betemit? Third baseman Wilson Betemit's .042 batting average is more glaring than Schmidt's ERA, and Betemit was out of the starting lineup again Sunday.

"He's started a little slowly, and it happens with baseball players, but we have to keep in sight the big picture and we know what he can mean to us," said Little. "It's human nature in his position to start pressing. The best way out of it is by playing, not by watching. He's a guy who will play himself into being that player we think he can be."

Nonetheless, he wasn't playing Sunday, yielding to Wilson Valdez, who in 11 professional seasons had never before played the position in a regular-season game at any level.

"I'm ready. I have to be ready," said Valdez, sounding a bit apprehensive. "Just stay low and don't panic. There are different angles to the throws, but I can handle it. Whenever they give me a chance, I'm ready for it."

Long on relief: For a role he never wanted, Mark Hendrickson has been the consummate long reliever this month. He's made three appearances, allowing two runs in 11 innings while saving the bullpen from further abuse.

His key?

"I don't even think about the role," he said. "I'm keeping it simplified. On the mound, my personal situation doesn't matter. As I've gotten older, I've learned to focus better and not take anything for granted."

Hendrickson dismissed the notion that he's better suited at relieving than starting, citing his effective Spring Training while contending for a starting job.

Hong-Chih Kuo, rehabbing a strained shoulder muscle, threw off a mound for the second time on Sunday. He said he will have at least one more bullpen session before he goes off for a Minor League rehab assignment.

Coming up: Brad Penny, off to another fast start at 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA, starts Monday in Arizona against Edgar Gonzalez (1-0, 4.50). Penny is 5-2 with a 2.11 ERA lifetime against Arizona and is coming off 6 1/3 scoreless innings against Colorado.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.