VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) -Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jason Schmidt, a question mark entering spring training, looked impressive in his first bullpen outing Saturday and was all smiles afterward.
``Knock on wood, I hate to even say anything. I was pain-free,'' he said. ``I'm feeling free and easy. Stamina up, arm strength, too. (But) we're not out of the woods.''
Schmidt used all of his pitches during the session, split into two segments of 15 pitches each not counting a few warmup tosses.
``I don't want to go into that,'' he said when asked about velocity. ``Bullpens aren't meant for that. I felt like I had a little bit of life on the ball.''
The Dodgers signed Schmidt to a $47 million, three-year contract last winter hoping he'd join Brad Penny and Derek Lowe atop their rotation. Instead, the 35-year-old right-hander was limited to six starts before undergoing surgery June 20 to repair an inflamed bursa, a torn labrum and a frayed biceps tendon in his right shoulder.
Schmidt spent extensive time last summer and during the offseason working with physical therapist Brett Fischer near his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.
``We've been throwing longer 'pens than that,'' Schmidt said. ``He has done so many of these with me. There were points where I thought I was ready to go to the next level, he held me back at times I wanted to push forward. If I would have done that, I probably would have had the big setback.''
Dodgers trainer Stan Conte met with Schmidt during the offseason, and is overseeing his work in spring training.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was encouraged by what he saw.
``First day out, I think it was positive,'' Colletti said. ``That he would throw his breaking ball and change is a good sign. He was throwing free and easy. There have been no setbacks, he's been diligent with his work.
``He's pretty far along right now, but he's still got a long way to go. Stan's going to make sure he's taking it cautiously.''
New Dodgers manager Joe Torre has said he isn't counting on Schmidt to be ready by opening day, but hopes he'll at least be close. He should at least get that wish if what happened Saturday was an accurate indication of Schmidt's progress.
``I thought Jason Schmidt was very easy on the eyes today,'' Torre said Saturday. ``He threw all his pitches. He's a little bit further along than I might have anticipated with all his pitches. He'll get two days off before he does it again.''
with a 3.33 ERA over 122 starts with the San Francisco Giants from 2003-06, making him one of the most attractive free-agent pitchers before he signed with the Dodgers. He went 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA before undergoing surgery last June.
Penny, Lowe, young Chad Billingsley and newcomer Hiroki Kuroda enter spring training as the leading candidates for the starting rotation. Schmidt and veteran Esteban Loaiza, a two-time All-Star who joined the Dodgers late last season, are other possibilities.

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