Hong-Chih Kuo pitches against the Chicago Cubs during a game at Dodger Stadium. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
Hong-Chih Kuo, who has spent the last five weeks on the disabled list dealing with an anxiety disorder, said he's ready to pitch in the major leagues again.
Back at Dodger Stadium from a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Kuo said Friday that his mental health has improved.
Of how he used to be overcome by nervousness when taking the mound, the reliever said, "It's better, so we'll see."
He said one way he could tell is by how he feels about his impending return.
"I'm more excited than nervous, so that's a good sign," Kuo said.
Kuo pitched Wednesday and Thursday for triple-A Albuquerque and could be activated Sunday, Manager Don Mattingly said. Kuo could be one of two relievers activated this weekend, as the Dodgers are expected to reinstate Kenley Jansen from the disabled list on Saturday.
Mattingly said he didn't think it would be necessary to ease Kuo back into major league competition by using him in low-pressure situations. Asked whether Kuo would be his closer, Mattingly replied, "Maybe."
Kuo's rehabilitation included therapy sessions with Drs. James Sparing of UCLA and Ken Ravizza of Cal State Fullerton.
This marks the second time Kuo has left the team to manage psychological issues. He missed three months of the 2009 season because of a sudden loss of control.
As was the case two seasons ago, Kuo said that time on the disabled list helped because it made him realize what the game means to him.
"I enjoy the game," he said.
In Kuo's last appearance with triple-A Albuquerque, on Thursday, he entered a game with one out and the bases loaded. He struck out the two batters he faced.
Said trainer Stan Conte: "That's all we can do — increase the pressure and see how he reacts to it."
Mattingly on Billingsley
Mattingly said he would meet with Chad Billingsley, who has an 11.20 earned-run average in three starts this month.
Mattingly said he was particularly displeased with how Billingsley performed Wednesday, when he was charged with seven runs in four innings in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
"The days you don't have the stuff, you have to find a way," Mattingly said.
Of Billingsley's inability to make adjustments, Mattingly said, "That's the definition of insanity, isn't it? Do the same thing and expect different results."
Vicente Padilla underwent surgery to repair a bulging disk in his neck Thursday and isn't expected back this year, according to Conte.
Padilla will be in a neck brace for the next two weeks.
For him to pitch again this season, Conte said he would probably have to start throwing in the next six to seven weeks.
"That's probably highly optimistic," Conte said.
Closer Jonathan Broxton pitched to hitters for the second time this week and could be sent to Albuquerque in the next couple of days to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment. … The Dodgers have partnered with another local sports team that has trouble attracting fans to offer a ticket package. For $35, fans can purchase a preferred field box ticket for the Dodgers' game Sunday and a midfield ticket for Major League Soccer team Chivas USA's July 16 match against the New York Red Bulls. A $20 ticket package is also available. Visit dodgers.com/Chivas for more information. … After the game Sunday, families can celebrate Father's Day by playing catch on the Dodger Stadium field.