Kuo excelling and Sherrill's OK with it
SAN DIEGO -- Despite all indications the eighth-inning setup role in the Dodgers' bullpen now belongs to Hong-Chih Kuo, manager Joe Torre stopped short of making that official when pressed on the matter Saturday.
What couldn't be ignored, though, was Kuo had pitched the eighth inning four times during the Dodgers' past eight games while former setup man George Sherrill had repeatedly been used earlier in games.
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"I think a lot of it is going to be matchups," Torre said. "I am certainly not afraid to send Kuo out there in that situation. He has been feeling really good."
Sherrill, who has been struggling with his mechanics since the start of spring training, says he believes he has finally corrected that problem. He entered Saturday having made four consecutive scoreless appearances spanning 2 1/3 innings, and he got the Dodgers out of a tough spot Friday night by retiring San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Headley and Will Venable in order with two men on, although one of those inherited runners did score.
Sherrill, an All-Star closer for the moribund Baltimore Orioles just last summer before being traded to the Dodgers, is perfectly understanding of the fact he has slid into a decidedly less-glamorous, middle-innings role.
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"That is something I have to earn back," Sherrill said. "Kuo has been great for us. The only way I get that role back is if I get really hot and Kuo gets really cold, and I don't want that to happen. If I'm pitching in the sixth or seventh inning and Kuo stays hot, I think we're going to be pretty good. I could care less about my role. I just want to win ballgames."
Since coming off the 15-day disabled list for the first time this season on April 22, Kuo has made eight appearances, the past seven of which were scoreless. Although Torre has to exercise extreme caution because of Kuo's long history of arm problems and the likelihood he will experience more of them with overuse, Kuo was allowed to finish the seventh inning Friday night -- he came on to strike out the dangerous Gonzalez to end the inning and leave the tying run on base -- and then to pitch the entire eighth, marking the first time this season he has pitched in separate innings of the same game.
Because of his earlier issues, Sherrill is still saddled with a 7.30 ERA in 19 appearances, while Kuo has a 2.70 ERA. Sherrill has allowed seven of his 13 inherited runners to score, Kuo just one of three.
Furcal takes it slow
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Torre says he is no longer hoping shortstop Rafael Furcal will be able to come off the 15-day disabled list in time for Sunday's game.
Furcal, who is eligible for activation but still experiencing slight discomfort in his left hamstring, will resume his minor-league rehabilitation assignment, probably for Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday at Salt Lake. That means he won't be activated until at least the middle of next week.
Right-hander Vicente Padilla, who has been on the 15-day DL since April 25 with a nerve problem at the top of his forearm, still hasn't thrown off a mound and probably won't return until around the middle of June. Torre said Padilla probably will need at least three minor-league rehab starts when he is ready for competition, and that alone will take about 11 days.
Haeger to return
Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who has been on the 15-day DL since Monday with what is being termed "plantar fasciitis" in his left foot, was scheduled to make his first rehab start for high Single-A Inland Empire on Saturday night against Rancho Cucamonga.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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