ST. LOUIS — Hong-Chih Kuo said he wasn't sure whether he would make it back.
But nearly three months removed from the night the pain in his troublesome elbow caused him to lob a couple of warmup pitches from the bullpen to the infield at Dodger Stadium, the left-handed setup man was activated from the 60-day disabled list Monday and once again was on the active major league roster.
Kuo pitched a perfect eighth inning in the Dodgers' 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, retiring Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa and Albert Pujols on a combined 10 pitches. His fastball was twice clocked at 95 mph.
If Kuo pitches the way he did last season -- he posted a 2.14 earned-run average in 42 games -- he could be the late-inning reliever the Dodgers are trying to add by the non-waiver trade deadline Friday. The Dodgers have scouted George Sherrill of Baltimore, and John Grabow and Matt Capps of Pittsburgh, among others.
"I've got to stay healthy," Kuo said.
Nicknamed "the Cockroach" by the Dodgers' training staff because of the number of times he has returned from career-threatening elbow injuries, Kuo went through a lengthy rehabilitation that included an extended stay at the Dodgers' spring-training facility in Arizona.
"Not a lot of people get the opportunity to pitch in the major leagues," Kuo said.
The window of opportunity might be closing for Kuo, who has undergone four elbow operations.
He has been warned that any pitch he throws could be his last and even if he remains healthy for the rest of the season, there are no assurances he will be back with the Dodgers next year.
Kuo will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next winter, meaning he will be in line to receive a salary far greater than the $437,000 he will earn this year. When the Dodgers were faced with the decision of whether to tender a contract to a reliever of questionable health in Takashi Saito last off-season, they opted to let him go.
"Whatever happens next year happens," Kuo said.
To make room on the roster for Kuo, the Dodgers optioned Blake DeWitt to triple-A Albuquerque. A place on the 40-man roster was created by moving outfielder Xavier Paul to the 60-day disabled list.
Manager Joe Torre said he would be cautious in the way he used Kuo. Until further notice, Kuo won't pitch for more than an inning and won't warm up more than once.
The Dodgers moved swiftly to capitalize on the magic of Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night by adding another Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night to their calendar.
The second go-around of the promotion will take place Sept. 16, when the Dodgers close a three-game series against Pittsburgh. The 50,000 dolls that will be handed out that night will be different from the 50,000 dolls that were handed out on Ramirez's first bobblehead night.
Ramirez will also be the focal point of a promotion Aug. 5, when the Dodgers will give away 20,000 posters celebrating his pinch-hit grand slam on his bobblehead night.
Jeff Weaver was fined an undisclosed amount for intentionally throwing a pitch at Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez on Sunday.
Weaver wouldn't say how much he was fined.
"I don't know and I don't care," he said.
Marlins pitcher Burke Badenhop was suspended for three games for throwing at Orlando Hudson in retaliation. Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez was given a one-game ban, which will be served today.
AT ST. LOUIS
When: 5 PDT.
Where: Busch Stadium.
On the air: TV: Ch. 9; Radio: 790, 930.
Pitchers: Chad Billingsley vs. Adam Wainwright.
Update: Billingsley earned his 10th victory last week on the night that Manny Ramirez hit his pinch-hit grand slam on his bobblehead night. Billingsley was 0-2 with a 6.55 earned-run average in his previous six starts. Manager Joe Torre said he thought Billingsley looked as if he was trying too hard to get his 10th victory. With that behind him, Torre said he hoped his ace would be more comfortable today. Wainwright is 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA in five starts this month. He earned his last victory in a rain-shortened game in Washington, where he held the Nationals to a run in six innings. He struck out seven.
-- Dylan Hernandez