05/04/09 10:40 PM ET
No timetable for return of Kuroda, Kuo
Opening Day starter yet to take mound during DL stint
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Kuroda, the Opening Day starter who has been disabled since April 7 with a left oblique strain, played light catch on flat ground just to keep his shoulder loose. But trainer Stan Conte said until the lingering tightness in the injured area is completely gone, Kuroda won't take the mound. And even when he does, it will still be weeks before he's activated as Kuroda essentially will need to go through a Spring Training to rebuild the arm strength needed for a starting pitcher.
"It's a tricky injury and if you move too fast at the end, you can take two or three steps back," said Conte. "We're at the most critical part. Six to eight weeks is not an inordinate amount of time to come back. It's unpredictable in nature, and the last 10- to 15-percent maximum effort it takes to pitch is the danger zone. We're entering that part of the rehab and we have to be careful. If it was a different part of the year, we might be more aggressive. But a bullpen [session] doesn't mean a whole lot."
Kuo went on the disabled list Saturday after he was unable to throw a catchable warmup pitch in the bullpen. Afterward, he conceded the elbow discomfort he's been pitching with had worsened.
Kuo has undergone four elbow operations, including two Tommy John elbow reconstructions. Conte said another operation is not planned. Arthritic change after that many injuries is inevitable and he described the latest episode as "wear and tear" that requires rest and rehabilitation.
"It's degenerative change," Conte said. "It flares up for no reason. We've known about it all along. We know exactly what it is. He could pitch with it, but there's no sense to go out with more discomfort. There's not an outing where we didn't worry about it. He's done tremendously well with it. He's gone through a lot. It's best for him to rest. He has a resume full of MRIs. There's no plan for an injection. Hopefully it won't be too long."
That is the hope. Of course, the club has known for years that Kuo, more than any Dodgers pitcher in recent history, is one pitch away from catastrophe. Conte said few appreciate Kuo's bravery.
"People don't know how tough he is," Conte said. "What he's been through, coming in at 11 in the morning to pitch an inning. This guy is a pretty incredible person to go through that. It's our responsibility from doing too much. He'd go out with two bloody stumps. I wouldn't expect him to be out a long time, but I can't tell a timetable."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.