With bullpen coach Dan Warthen standing in as a simulated batter, Schmidt began with primarily sharp breaking balls and changeups but soon added fastballs, and as the session continued, the velocity increased. A velocity decrease of nearly 10 mph in his earlier starts served as a red flag that something was wrong.
The fact that Sunday's session lasted as long as it did and increased significantly from the 50 pitches he made in a bullpen session three days earlier would seem to indicate Schmidt is getting close to facing hitters, either in a traditional simulated game or on a Minor League rehabilitation start.
This session was important enough for both manager Grady Little and general manager Ned Colletti to observe in person. Schmidt has been reluctant to discuss his five-week rehab in detail, and Little continued to understate the significance of this workout while speaking with reporters.
"He's progressing," said Little, echoing the buzzword that has been used to describe Schmidt for more than a month. "He's extending the workload. He felt good. He's feeling better. The whole key will be two days from now. He's got to keep progressing."
When asked if Schmidt was "airing it out," Little said: "I wouldn't say that. Our No. 1 concern is how he feels the next day. That will dictate what's next."
Jeff Kent issued his annual protest to Interleague Play on Friday night, but Little has a different view.
"I spent 16 years in the Minor Leagues," he said, "and anything that happens in the Major Leagues is fine with me -- the schedule, the travel, nothing bothers me about the Major Leagues."
Fan support? Brett Tomko returns to the mound on Monday night against Milwaukee, having last started seven days earlier, when he was charged with eight runs in 2 1/3 innings and was roundly booed by the crowd at Dodger Stadium.
Tomko said the booing bothered him but acknowledged that it was driven by his performance.
"If I pitch better, I don't have to worry about it," he said. "Just don't give them any reason to boo."
Mark Hendrickson knows what that's like. He said he endured the same treatment last year when he struggled as a starter after being acquired from Tampa Bay. A former player in the NBA, Hendrickson said Dodgers fans can get tough, but nothing like Philadelphia 76ers fans.
"What I experienced there was as bad as one can get," he said. "We went 22-60. They were on me, and I didn't even play. That right there was eye-opening. But after being around, I appreciate and understand what they're all about. You can't let it be personal. They just want to win, so give them credit for their passion. They show up every day. That says a lot right there. Having played in Tampa, I appreciate that."
Much has been made of Hendrickson's work with sports psychologist Ken Ravizza at the suggestion of Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, who was also Hendrickson's pitching coach with the Devil Rays.
Butcher said the essence of the approach is visualization.
"What we have the pitchers do is prepare for the game by visualizing how they would pitch in the game," he said. "Sometimes it's in a darkened room and we go hitter by hitter. We want the pitcher the visualize pitching to each batter, even how he'd get out of a jam.
"I can close my eyes and see myself pitch. It's like watching TV. You see yourself throw your best fastball. You try to see good things. Then, in the game, you refer back to that, visualize, and it's like you've been there before."
The Dodgers Dream Foundation will host the annual Dodgers Charity Golf Invitational at Trump National Golf Club on Thursday. Foursomes are still available. Call 323-224-1413 for more details.
Tomko (1-4, 5.97 ERA) opposes Jeff Suppan (5-4, 3.25 ERA) and the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night at 7:10 p.m. PT when the Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium.