Notes: No rush for Schmidt

Notes: No rush for Schmidt

WASHINGTON -- Jason Schmidt's rehab start for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday drew rave reviews, but didn't convince manager Grady Little that the disabled right-hander is ready to be activated without another Minor League start.

"I don't think so. I'd have to really be convinced," Little said while discussing Schmidt's six scoreless innings in his first competitive action since being disabled on April 17 with shoulder bursitis. "I think he has to build up to a certain point before he toes the rubber for us. That's my personal opinion, but we'll talk about it."

Schmidt struck out seven, allowed two hits and made only 71 pitches. Included were two strikeouts of rehabbing Angels outfielder Garret Anderson on six pitches. Schmidt used all of his pitches and was clocked between 88-91 mph, faster than he was clocked in his three Dodgers starts this year.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was somewhat stunned to hear that Schmidt pitched six innings after a six-week layoff, but the right-hander has been looking strong in bullpen sessions the past two weeks while downplaying his progress.

Schmidt and trainer Stan Conte are expected to rejoin the Dodgers on this trip, and Schmidt should have a bullpen session on Friday.

"Everything was positive," said Little. "We were glad to see him last that long. We'll let his body and arm dictate what's next. It's a big relief."

Kuo for Saturday: Barring something unforeseen, Little said he was "leaning" toward starting Hong-Chih Kuo Saturday in Pittsburgh.

"I'm fairly confident that will be the guy," Little said.

Kuo allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings Monday in his most recent start for Triple-A Las Vegas, where he is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA. He's pitched twice in relief for the Dodgers this year, allowing four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, after opening the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.

Little would be choosing Kuo over D.J. Houlton, who pitched another strong game Tuesday night, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Houlton has been the most reliable starter in Las Vegas this year.

Following the plan: After Juan Pierre had four extra-base hits in the leadoff spot Tuesday night against right-handed starter Jason Simontacchi, he was dropped back into the second spot in the order Wednesday night against left-hander Mike Bacsik.

"I'm sticking with my plan for a awhile," Little said, referring to his flip-flopping of Pierre and Rafael Furcal depending whether the opposing starter is right-handed or left-handed.

Humbling visit: A Dodgers contingent visited the Walter Reed Medical Center on Wednesday for the second consecutive year to meet with several soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those visiting were players Chad Billingsley, Marlon Anderson, Pierre and Andre Ethier, hitting coach Eddie Murray and broadcasters Rick Monday, Jaime Jarrín and Jerry Reuss.

"They didn't want to talk about what had happened to them. They wanted to talk about us," said Billingsley. "To see what they are going through and to think of guys still overseas, you think to yourself how lucky we are. It puts things in perspective."

Representatives from the club will tour the Pentagon on Thursday on a visit set up by Little and his wife, Debi.

Jones on third: Mitch Jones, the journeyman outfielder who leads Triple-A Las Vegas with 14 home runs and a league-leading 49 RBIs, is being tested at third base, although chances of him solving the club's slugging gap at the position remain remote. In the month of May, Jones has gone 26-for-84 (.310) with eight homers, 29 RBIs and 17 walks. He has an on-base percentage of .427 and a slugging percentage of .679 for the month.

Bigbie's deadline approaches: Las Vegas outfielder Larry Bigbie is expected to exercise an escape clause in his contract Friday and become a free agent. Bigbie is likely to wind up playing in Japan if a Major League team does not offer him a big-league job.

Howell an All-Star: Las Vegas pitching coach Ken Howell will coach the Pacific Coast League All-Star pitchers at the PCL All-Star Game on July 11, 2007, in Albuquerque, N.M. Howell, who began his tenure as a Minor League coach with the Dodgers in 2003, is currently in his second season as the pitching coach of the 51s.

Coming up: Dodgers left-hander Mark Hendrickson (2-2, 3.62 ERA) opposes Washington's Micah Bowie (1-2, 3.91) in Thursday's series finale at 4:05 p.m. PT.

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