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LOS ANGELES -- In May 2009, the Dodgers put reliever Hong-Chih Kuo on the disabled list with what was called a "left elbow strain." And his elbow was strained, but it turned out he also had a case of the "yips," a loss of certain motor skills often used by golfers to explain shaky putting, but adapted in baseball for players who suddenly can't control throws with no loss in velocity.
On Saturday, the Dodgers put Kuo on the disabled list with what was called a "lower left back strain," and his back does have an issue, but apparently he also has a relapse of the yips.
During pitchers' fielding practice on Friday, two of Kuo's throws to second base sailed and bounced into center field. He tried to warm up in the bullpen during the eighth inning of a blowout loss and wasn't able to throw a strike, prompting the decision to recall right-hander Ramon Troncoso and put Kuo back on the disabled list.
Two years ago, Kuo attempted a similar bullpen session and airmailed two pitches onto the field that stopped play. This time he wasn't as wild, but he was wild enough.
Manager Don Mattingly said Kuo had an MRI of his back last weekend in San Diego that showed some sort of change, although that's no surprise for any pitcher with 11 years of professional experience, especially one with Kuo's history of injuries that includes four elbow operations.
"We were trying to figure out why he's up, up, up," Mattingly said of Kuo, who has four walks in 2 2/3 innings after walking only 18 in 60 innings last year. "He's going to rest the next couple of days and have some tests done."
Mattingly was not specific on the tests, but coming back from the yips is test enough. It took Kuo three months of rehab in Arizona in 2009 to get him back to the big leagues and there were plenty of people in the organization who wondered if he'd ever make it. Not only did he return, but he helped in that year's playoff run and followed with his best season in 2010, setting a franchise-record 1.20 ERA.
The 29-year-old Kuo was not at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, but Thursday night he discounted injury as an explanation for his wildness.
"It's not because of my elbow, my shoulder or my back," Kuo told the Los Angeles Times. "I just have to make a pitch."
In his last outing, Wednesday night in San Francisco, Kuo's fastball was consistently clocked at 93-94 mph.
"The good part is it's not the elbow or shoulder," said Mattingly. "The MRI didn't show major stuff. We feel like it's muscles and hope to get it worked out."
Kuo has been in the organization longer than anyone else on the roster. He's survived five Dodgers managers, five general managers and two owners. Signed out of Taiwan at age 17, he struck out seven of the first 10 batters in his professional debut and also blew out his elbow, leading to the first of two Tommy John operations. After his second operation, he had to be talked out of retirement by teammates Darren Dreifort and Eric Gagne and Acey Kohrogi, executive director of Asian operations.
Dodgers taking up Garland's balk with MLB
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the club will contact MLB about the balk called on starting pitcher Jon Garland on Friday night, an ironic twist in that complaints about umpire calls are handled by MLB's new executive vice president of on-field operations.
That would be Joe Torre, Mattingly's predecessor.
"We'll turn it in and see what the league thinks," Mattingly said of the call by second-base umpire Angel Hernandez, the first of Garland's 11-year career, setting the tone for a three-run rally by the Cardinals. "I'm sure, technically, maybe it's a balk. But guys do it all the time. There was no intent to deceive."
Mattingly also was annoyed with the strike zone of plate umpire Chad Fairchild, who called out three Dodgers (Casey Blake, Matt Kemp and James Loney) on third strikes that appeared to Mattingly to be well off the plate.
"When that many guys start complaining and say that they can't reach that ball, you start to wonder," Mattingly said.
However, he also complimented Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse for exploiting the opportunity. Five of Lohse's six strikeouts came on called third strikes.
"They're good at it -- down and away, down and away," he said. "It's what they do."
Padilla could return for upcoming road trip
LOS ANGELES -- Injured Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla begins a Minor League rehabilitation assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday and could rejoin the Dodgers on the upcoming trip to Chicago and Florida.
Padilla, recovering from surgery to free an entrapped radial nerve in his right forearm, threw off a mound on Thursday and Friday nights and said he's ready to go.
Because the Dodgers intend to use Padilla in relief and not as a starter, he will require less time to rebuild arm strength.