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Dodgers might boast co-fifth starters

Dodgers might boast co-fifth starters

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NEW YORK -- There will still be another rehab start or two for Jason Schmidt after Saturday night, but if and when he's finally ready to return to the Major Leagues from a year on the sidelines, it could be in some tag-team fashion with rookie Clayton Kershaw as co-fifth starters.

The Dodgers have used such a pairing earlier this year with Hong-Chih Kuo and Chan Ho Park. The tactic would make sense because of the uncertainty with Schmidt's stamina early on, as well as make it easier to limit the innings of the 20-year-old Kershaw.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland is planning a similar system to transition Dontrelle Willis from the disabled list to the starting rotation. Dodgers manager Joe Torre repeated on Saturday that Kershaw will remain in the rotation, but also said he could envision a scenario of the young lefty starting and Schmidt relieving in a predetermined inning.

"I'm not saying we would do that, but we'll look at it," said Torre. "We're keeping track of [Kershaw's] innings, so it's certainly something we'd think about. The fact is, it wouldn't be like coming out of the bullpen [for Schmidt]. We could pinpoint when he'd come into the game and give him enough time to warm up. It's certainly something we'd think about."

Dodgers management, concerned with keeping Kershaw's arm fresh for August, September and beyond, has limited him to 25 innings per month this year. He pitched only 123 innings last year, his first full season as a professional. Kershaw pitched 25 2/3 innings at Double-A Jacksonville in April, had 17 2/3 there in May before his callup, and has added 9 2/3 innings in two Dodgers starts to finish May with 27 1/3 frames.

That included his rocky 3 2/3 innings Friday night, when he overthrew his fastball and abandoned a changeup that was effective in his debut last weekend.

"Last night, he worked hard," Torre said Saturday of Kershaw, who burned through 83 pitches against the Mets, 66 of them fastballs. "He tried to manufacture it. Every muscle he has hurts today."

Torre said the lack of fastball command left Kershaw "afraid to throw a soft fastball [changeup] and not be able to locate it. I mentioned it to him, 'Don't forget that stuff. If you don't have the fastball, go to the offspeed stuff and come back to the fastball.'"

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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