- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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NEW YORK -- On the morning after using reliever Hong-Chih Kuo for a second consecutive day for the first time this season, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that despite Kuo's lengthy medical history, he will now be used just like any other reliever.
"He is a normal guy for us now," Mattingly said Sunday. "If he is available and he feels good, he is available."
Dodgers trainer Stan Conte, who traditionally has monitored Kuo's throwing program, said the decision was made at Kuo's request after Kuo was activated from the 15-day disabled list a week ago. Kuo's long injury history has included two Tommy John surgeries before he even got to the major leagues in 2005. He also has been on the DL five times during his seven big league seasons, three of them with elbow injuries, and he underwent elbow surgery in 2007 that caused him to miss the final three months.
Kuo's most recent trip to the DL, on April 16, was due to a lower-back strain.
Because of all those injuries, Kuo in recent years has pitched on back-to-back days only on rare occasions. He also was on a carefully monitored throwing program in spring training this year that was much slower and more gradual than those of all the other pitchers in camp, something Kuo seemed at times to be unhappy about.
Mattingly did say Kuo wasn't available for Sunday's game with the New York Mets at Citi Field, but no Dodgers reliever has pitched in three consecutive games this season.
Kuo, who primarily pitches in an eighth-inning setup role, has a 9.64 ERA in eight appearances, but that is mostly due a single bad outing on the day he returned from the DL in which he gave up four earned runs in one-third of an inning. He also experienced uncharacteristic control problems before going on the DL, something that likely was caused by his back injury throwing off his mechanics.
Conte said he was comfortable with the decision.
"Yeah, I'm as comfortable as I can be," said Conte, who then added, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that "he promised me that if he has any trouble going back to back, he will tell me, and I know I can trust every player who tells me stuff like that."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.