Schmidt struggled in 3 2/3 innings in last start

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants placed struggling ace right-hander Jason Schmidt on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained right shoulder, the latest injury to a San Francisco star this season.

Schmidt joins slugger Barry Bonds and closer Armando Benitez on the disabled list for the Giants, who began the day in fourth place in the NL West.

"I figured better now than later, get it taken care of," said Schmidt, who expects to return when the stint on the DL ends. "I just kind of felt I wasn't doing a whole lot to help this team right now. I wasn't at my best. Instead of fighting through it, let's get it taken care of right now. It's the end of the season that counts."

Schmidt, an 18-game winner last season, is 2-1 with a 4.71 ERA and hasn't won since April 10 against Colorado -- a span of five starts. He insisted after his last outing that his arm was fine, saying Sunday, "I'm feeling normal."

But he told trainer Stan Conte and pitching coach Dave Righetti on Monday that his shoulder had been bothering him. The problem is in the back of his shoulder in the rotator cuff area, assistant trainer Dave Groeschner said.

Schmidt had an MRI on Monday and was examined by team doctor Ken Akizuki. After a couple days off to rest, Schmidt could play some light catch, Groeschner said.

On Tuesday, Schmidt acknowledged he's been dealing with a weak shoulder all season. He compared it to someone trying to hit a tennis ball with loose strings in the racket.

"He obviously hasn't been right," assistant general manager Ned Colletti said Tuesday. "He tried to pitch through it. He knows his body better than anybody. He complained of some shoulder pain here and there. We shut him down for two weeks to rectify the situation early."

Bonds has been sidelined all season with an injured right knee and could miss at least half the season. Benitez had an operation last week on his torn hamstring and is expected to miss at least four months.

Schmidt struggled in his last start, allowing six runs, six hits and six walks in 3 2/3 innings against Washington. The walks were his most since Aug. 15, 2002, when he issued seven against Atlanta.

He has thrown 465 pitches in his last four starts but has gone only 24 innings.

The 32-year-old Schmidt, an NL All-Star the past two years, said in spring training he felt better than he had in years. Last season, he became the first Giant to register consecutive 200-strikeout seasons since Gaylord Perry in 1969-70.

"In the wintertime, I felt awesome," he said. "I felt good in spring training, but I knew I was off, something was off. Something didn't feel strong. It's just been that way ever since spring training and it progressively got worse. I know it's nothing serious, but I knew it was just a matter of time that I was going to have to take care of it. I don't want to say it's a relief, but I'm looking forward to the other end of this more than anything."

Schmidt began the 2004 season on the disabled list because of shoulder discomfort, which was unrelated to offseason elbow surgery he had to remove scar tissue and repair a torn tendon. Then in August, Schmidt strained his groin covering first base.

And he only won three times in his final eight outings last season.

"We've pitched without him before," Colletti said. "You hate to see your ace go down, but there's nothing you can do about it. The first five weeks of the season have been a Rubik's Cube, so to speak."

The Giants recalled right-hander Scott Munter from Triple-A Fresno to take Schmidt's roster spot. Munter was 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA in 12 relief appearances at Fresno.

The move is retroactive to Sunday.

San Francisco will need to bring up a starter Thursday at Houston for Schmidt's regular turn. Brad Hennessey, currently at Fresno, is a strong candidate to be called up.

Manager Felipe Alou has been forced to be creative with his lineup all year. His right fielder and son, Moises Alou, already missed two weeks with a strained right calf and sat out his second straight game Tuesday with a stomach virus that has hit the clubhouse.

"It is tough, but somehow I felt Jason was not up to par," Felipe Alou said. "It's the best for Jason and best for the team. Hopefully we'll get the complete pitcher we know he is in a couple weeks."