Schmidt trying to bounce back from injuries

Updated: February 16, 2006, 5:26 PM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The San Francisco Giants exercised their $10.5 million option on right-hander Jason Schmidt, hopeful the injuries that limited him to reduced velocity and 12 victories last year are gone.

Schmidt, 89-40 in four-plus seasons with the Giants, hopes so, too. He stepped up his winter workout regimen in preparation for a fresh start, but offered no guarantee he would be the hard thrower of old.

"I was pitching 80 percent, and that's not easy to do," he said. "We'll get out there and see if it's back. If it's not, I'm in better shape now to deal with things. Mentally, I've already dealt with it once. We all have stuff we go through."

Schmidt wants to avoid another slow start, one which produced a 6-5 record and a 5.01 ERA at the All-Star break. General manager Brian Sabean also wants to see improvement.

"The more you see of the old Jason Schmidt, the more you want to sign him," Sabean said when asked about the pitcher's future with the club. "We need him to get through 200 innings."

Because of injuries, Schmidt worked 172 innings in 29 starts last year. But he learned to pitch effectively with less velocity and went 6-2 after the break to finish 12-7 with a 4.40 ERA. Then the Giants decided against a $3.5 million buyout.

"I thought it was a 50-50 thing," Schmidt said about returning to the Giants. "I have mixed emotions about it. I'm going back to a familiar team. I never said I didn't want to be here. It's just it would have been a good time to be a free agent."

Now, Schmidt will be pitching for a contract again and is eager to avoid the frustrations that accompanied his worst season with the Giants after he won an ERA title in 2003 (2.34) and went 18-7 in 2004.

"It was one of those years," he said of 2005. "The first one or two starts were the only ones where I felt normal. You're coming out of the All-Star break and you're trying to save face till the end and wait for the next season to come.

"You realize things aren't going your way for whatever reason. A mental break is what I needed more than anything. I beat myself up, and there was a lot of other stuff going on. I just needed to get away from it. I got beyond frustrated."

Manager Felipe Alou hasn't lost faith in his ace.

"Expectations are high," he said. "The key is keeping him healthy. He can be dominant without blowing people away with 96-97 mph fastballs. He's in a transition period now, becoming more of a pitcher."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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