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Dodgers try to find consistent fifth starter

Dodgers try to find consistent fifth starter

ANAHEIM -- The fifth-starter spot is no afterthought to the Dodgers.

It came up on Saturday, when Chan Ho Park and Hong-Chih Kuo combined for eight solid innings in the heat to beat the Angels.

Manager Joe Torre indicated the club could do worse than employ the same pair the next time the spot comes up in two weeks.

"Not too bad," Torre said. "Both know what they're doing. It was pretty comfortable to watch yesterday."

The Dodgers this year are 4-3 in games started by the fifth starter. In 2007, Los Angeles was 29-40 in games started by someone other than Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf, who's now with the Padres.

Management is hopeful that Jason Schmidt will eventually take over the spot, and he moved a big step closer on Sunday, reporting no ill effects from his 34-pitch injury rehab start for Class A Inland Empire on Saturday night. Schmidt had surgery on his right shoulder on June 20 of last year.

The tentative plan is for Schmidt to throw one or two bullpen sessions at Dodger Stadium before another Inland Empire appearance, probably next weekend.

Schmidt said he again stuck with fastballs and changeups, because he's still not satisfied with the command of his breaking ball. Schmidt's velocity increased to 88-90 mph Saturday night after residing at 86-88 mph in his earlier rehab start.

Esteban Loaiza, something of a forgotten man in the equation, will make an Inland Empire rehab start Monday night. He's been on the disabled list for two weeks with tightness in his shoulder blade. Loaiza and Kuo have made three starts each in the fifth spot.

Clayton Kershaw -- the 20-year-old phenom whose schedule at Double-A Jacksonville has been juggled so it matches when the Dodgers need a fifth starter -- had an eventful start Saturday. He had three walks and a balk in the first inning, cruised through the next four innings, then retired one batter in the sixth before being removed. He was charged with two earned runs, but walked a season-high four.

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

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