LOS ANGELES -- For years, the Dodgers' training staff worried every time Hong-Chih Kuo threw a baseball.

Now, the staff worries when he doesn't.

Because Kuo's elbow had undergone four operations, in past offseasons, he'd be shut down -- only to find that it would take extra long to get cranked up the following year. So when most pitchers take a break after the season ends, Kuo will keep throwing.

"We found last winter that he seems to do better when he continues to throw," said trainer Stan Conte. "So his program is different than the rest. We want him to throw a couple times a week. For him, it's better than stopping. He's had good success this year throwing throughout the season, so we'll try to repeat that."

Kuo, who inherited the job of closer from Jonathan Broxton, has had two Tommy John surgeries (2000 and '03) and two arthroscopic clean-ups ('02 and '07).

Although he's 29, he's been in the organization longer than any current Dodgers player, signing in 1999.

Torre says Rox his choice to win West

LOS ANGELES -- The first team manager Joe Torre spoke of when asked who would win the National League West on Thursday was the Colorado Rockies.

"You know, to me, Colorado looks like the most balanced team -- the pitching, the right-handed hitting, the left-handed hitting," Torre said. "They right now may have two of the hottest hitters in baseball in [Carlos] Gonzalez and [Troy] Tulowitzki. You talk about a one-two punch."

The Padres are tied with the Giants, who beat the Cubs, 13-0, on Thursday for first. The Rockies are three games out.

Playing off a comparison he heard on the radio Thursday, Torre said the Giants look like the old Oakland Raiders: They don't rattle and they have veterans who have had success in other places. The biggest difference-maker for Torre, though, has been Giants catcher Buster Posey.

"I think he's the Rookie of the Year," Torre said.

The Padres could sweep a three-game set from the Dodgers on Thursday, but Torre worried about how their pitching will hold up.

"When you have young pitching, you wonder at what point are they going to get a little tired," he said. "They're not used to it. I think they're a sound ballclub."

Even the Rockies, though, left Torre a little puzzled. Colorado entered the day 31-45 on the road. The Dodgers, who are six games under .500 and in fourth place, are 31-44 on the road.

"They can't win unless they're home," Torre said. "It's crazy. Our records are the same on the road, which is nuts for a club that's getting close to doing something."

Hoffmann named to USA Pan American team

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers Triple-A outfielder Jamie Hoffmann has been named to USA Baseball's Pan American Qualifying Team, which will compete in the COPABE Pan American/World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico, Oct. 1-10.

The team comprises Minor Leaguers who aren't on any Major League 40-man rosters. Hoffmann is the sole Dodgers' representative. At 26, Hoffmann hit. 310 with eight home runs and 74 RBIs for the Isotopes this season. He also had a .369 on-base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage.