Hey, look! It’s Padres infielder Chris Burke. No, he’s not fielding one of the six groundball outs that Jake Peavy induced. He’s picking up a ball that found its way onto the field in the bottom of the 7th inning, as Peavy faced James Loney. Now, how did that ball get all the way into the infield?
On Wednesday night, Hong-Chih Kuo retired the side in order and looked like he finally was back on track.
On Saturday, he goes back on the disabled list.
The star-crossed left-hander has another injury to that left elbow that has already undergone four operations, including two Tommy John ligament reconstructions. He tried to warm up to go into Friday night’s game for the eighth inning, and it was painful to watch.
Kuo made 15 throws in the bullpen, only four of them catchable by the bullpen catcher. Most bounced out of reach, while two sailed over the bullpen gate and rolled into the infield.
Just in case it’s not immediately clear what the difference is between “hitting the bullpen catcher” and “launching two balls to the infield”, let’s overlay Kuo’s position in the bullpen as compared to where Burke fielded the ball:
Yikes. All joking aside, though, this is obviously a huge blow to the Dodger bullpen, because it’s hard to overstate just how dominant he was last season. But anyone who’s surprised to hear this is just fooling themselves; it’s not exactly a secret that Kuo’s had four elbow surgeries – including two Tommy Johns – and let’s not forget the business about his arm turning colors at the end of last season.
No, it’s not yet been confirmed that he needs another surgery; all we know that is that Torre said “we’re going to put him on the DL and get this thing right.” That couldn’t possibly sound more ominous, but we’ll have to wait and see. That said, he hasn’t been right in nearly eight months, between missing the playoffs last year and his disappointing start to 2009. Look, we all knew this was going to happen; it’s sad to say, but Kuo’s arm is a ticking time bomb, as far as baseball goes. Really, what he was able to give this club last year was just a bonus, because he wasn’t even on the radar when spring training started, and he ended up being one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Sure, you’d always hoped that he’d be able to ward off the next arm injury for a little longer… but you never counted on it.
That said, the fact that Kuo is hurt again isn’t what bothers me. This is what bothers me:
“It’s his elbow, and he finally admitted it,” manager Joe Torre said after Friday night’s 1-0 victory over the Padres.
Finally admitted it? What? Haven’t we been down this road enough times already? Isn’t this exactly what happened with Eric Gagne in 2005 and 2006? Brad Penny in 2008? Look, I get that ballplayers are brought up to be tough, always willing to play through anything. Got it. It’s just that we have learned so many times that trying to ‘tough it out’ almost always leads to the injury developing into something much more severe, which could have been avoided in the first place. This goes triple for someone who’s already had four arm surgeries; Kuo should have been in an ambulance to the ER every time he even got a mosquito bite. Sure, it’s very possible that with his history nothing was going to stop him getting hurt, but it’s insane to think that he was hiding anything from the medical staff.
(Also, just more fuel on the “wins are meaningless stats!” fire! Clayton Kershaw threw 7 scoreless innings and didn’t get a win, the second time this year that’s happened to him.)
(AND, don’t forget – MSTI on Dodger Talk on KABC, Sunday at 6:30pm!)