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Dodgers' Hong-Chih Kuo says he is having fun again

Six of the reliever's last seven appearances have been scoreless, and he has lowered his season earned-run average to 9.28. Kuo, who has suffered from an anxiety disorder, wants to pitch next season.

September 04, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo throws to the plate during the eighth inning against the Angels.
Dodgers relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo throws to the plate during the eighth… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Reporting from Atlanta -- Hong-Chih Kuo said baseball is fun for him again — and so long as his elbow holds up, the former All-Star reliever intends to pitch again next season.

"I'll try to pitch," Kuo said.

This wasn't always a given. In a season in which he landed on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder and performed erratically, there were times when Kuo was noncommittal about his future.

Kuo, whose earned-run average was 12.46 as recently as July 31, has looked like the Kuo of old in recent weeks.

Six of his last seven appearances have been scoreless. Over that span, he has posted a 2.84 ERA, struck out nine batters in 61/3 innings and walked none. His velocity is back up, as he touched 96 mph in his most recent appearance, on Saturday.

His season ERA is down to 9.28.

"He's getting back to himself," Manager Don Mattingly said.

Kuo said that what's made the difference is his increased ability to control his breaking ball.

"I feel more comfortable now when I pitch," he said.

Kuo said that he still feels anxiety when taking the mound but that he is learning to manage it better.

Conversations with Hiroki Kuroda have helped. Kuroda's English is extremely limited, but the Japanese right-hander has been able to string together enough words to relay this idea: "Every time he goes to the mound," Kuo said, "he gets nervous too."

Kuo said he would like to pitch for the Dodgers again next season, but the decision isn't entirely his.

He is earning $2.725 million this year and would probably receive a significant raise in the arbitration process if the team tenders him a contract.

Can a bankrupt ballclub afford to spend millions on a pitcher with his medical history?

"I don't really want to think about it," Kuo said. "I'm focusing on what I'm doing now. It's fun."

Transaction wire

Right-hander Ramon Troncoso was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque to add an extra arm in the bullpen.

Troncoso had a rough time in his two previous major league callups this season, as he posted a 6.23 ERA in 12 appearances. He had a 5.05 ERA in 35 triple-A games.

Matt Guerrier, who is on paternity leave, is expected to rejoin the Dodgers on Monday for their series opener against the Washington Nationals.

Series trivia

The Dodgers faced a rookie starter in all three games of their series in Atlanta: Brandon Beachy (Friday), Mike Minor (Saturday) and Randall Delgado (Sunday). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time that happened for the Dodgers was when they faced the Florida Marlins from Aug. 4-6, 2006. The Dodgers swept that series.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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