Dodgers consider activating reliever Kuo
Left-hander could make surprise return from elbow strain
LOS ANGELES -- Not only is Jason Schmidt returning Monday night, but the Dodgers also are considering activating reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.
Kuo pitched a scoreless inning in a rehab appearance Saturday at Class A Inland Empire and Sunday said he felt fine.
"I'm ready," he said.
"To pitch here," he said. "I'm happy. I feel good. I'm ready to pitch."
This is almost as surprising as Schmidt's return from two shoulder operations and two years off -- and possibly more meaningful to the Dodgers' chances this year. Schmidt's comeback is a headline story, but Kuo's elbow, with four operations, will be the subject of medical journals.
Kuo was most recently placed on the disabled list on May 2 with a left-elbow strain after being unable to make catchable throws while warming up for a May 1 game. He made three rehab appearances for the Dodgers' Arizona League affiliate, allowing just two hits in three innings while walking one and striking out five. He made two more appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque before Saturday night's Inland Empire game.
His absence for most of this season has triggered a chain reaction that includes the emergence of setup men Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, but also the signing of free agent Will Ohman -- now on the disabled list -- and the heavy usage that has Belisario and Cory Wade on the disabled list.
It also has the Dodgers in search mode for bullpen help with the July 31 Trade Deadline approaching. In a stroke of timing, one club they've targeted is coming to town. The Cincinnati Reds, who arrive Monday night, have a bullpen of veterans that appeal to the Dodgers.
Primarily, that means closer Francisco Cordero, right-handed workhorse David Weathers and lefty specialist Arthur Rhodes. The Orioles also have some relievers that fit the Dodgers profile, most notably George Sherrill.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre sounded pleasantly surprised with the Kuo update.
"He really had a good result and we may have the finish line in mind right now," said Torre, who wasn't sure if the club wanted Kuo to make one more Minor League appearance. "I think he's been tested about as much as he can be tested and he seems to have responded pretty well. He had a big smile on his face today. It's a big decision."
A healthy Kuo, last year's MLB.com Setup Man of the Year, would be a huge addition, especially with the uncertain status of closer Jonathan Broxton and the nerve problem in his right big toe, an issue Torre said must be monitored the rest of the season. The Dodgers, however, have received consistent performances from Troncoso and, since mid-May, a revitalized Guillermo Mota.
Torre concedes his starting rotation's inability to pitch deep into games consistently, requiring frequent calls to the bullpen, has him concerned.
"No question," he said. "That's why I talk about our pitchers needing to go seven innings, to take the load off the bullpen. You don't want to spring a leak there. Yeah, it's a concern."
Reinstating Schmidt or Kuo from the 60-day disabled list will require the Dodgers to move one player each off the 25-man roster and one each off the 40-man roster. One 40-man spot figures to be cleared by moving Eric Milton, recovering from last week's back surgery, to the 60-day list. The same could be done with Ohman, who has shoulder tendinitis.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.