Kuroda to miss next start

LOS ANGELES -- Although right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will miss his next scheduled start for the Los Angeles Dodgers while recovering from a mild concussion, the club is encouraged by his early progress on the way back to the mound.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre and trainer Stan Conte seemed quite optimistic about Kuroda's prospects for a quick, full recovery just two days after Rusty Ryal's line drive hit him in the head during the sixth inning of a game in Arizona. The 34-year-old Japanese pitcher participated in a range of tests Monday after the club returned to Dodger Stadium.

"The greatest gift for me is that smile on his face," Torre said. "He feels a lot better than we expected him to. I think it's remarkable where he is right now. It's wonderful."

Kuroda will need full medical clearance before he can pitch again, and he wasn't allowed to throw his usual off-day bullpen session Monday. Torre and Conte wouldn't guess when Kuroda could be cleared.

"Today was better than I expected he would be when he came in," Conte said. "He had a mild concussion, but nothing worse than that. [The tests were] a very good indicator for us that things aren't that bad."

Kuroda, 5-5 with a 4.08 ERA, was scheduled to start Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. Torre says he could choose a replacement by late Monday night.

Kuroda still has slight, intermittent headaches and occasional dizziness, but Torre said the pitcher seemed perfectly aware and alert during their conversation through a translator. He will undergo further tests Tuesday at the office of Dr. Vernon Williams, a neurologist in Los Angeles who specializes in treating concussions.

Kuroda was sent home from the park before speaking to reporters under Conte's orders to rest.

The injury shortens an already thin rotation for the first-place Dodgers, who began Monday with the NL's best record and a five-game lead over Colorado in the NL West despite going 14-16 since the All-Star break with a relatively undistinguished collection of starting pitchers.

Right-hander Jason Schmidt is back on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and right-hander Chad Billingsley plans to pitch Tuesday night after missing his previous start with a strained left hamstring.

Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger was scheduled to make his Dodgers debut Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the 10th pitcher to start a game for Los Angeles this season.