Notes: Kuo returns to big club

Notes: Kuo returns to big club

LOS ANGELES -- Just before Tuesday night's game, the Dodgers promoted left-handed pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo from Triple-A Las Vegas and designated for assignment infielder Wilson Valdez.

Kuo becomes the 12th pitcher on the staff and provides depth to a bullpen that had to pick up 6 2/3 innings on Monday night after Brett Tomko's short start. Kuo was the front-runner for the fifth-starter competition in Spring Training until he suffered a strained shoulder on March 16. While at Triple-A Las Vegas, Kuo was 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in five games, striking out 19 with five walks in 11 1/3 innings.

"He'll work out of the bullpen and build up arm strength and we'll see what the future holds in the 'pen or the rotation," general manager Ned Colletti said of Kuo, who has struggled as a reliever in previous Major League stints.

The move probably means the end of Valdez's stay with the organization. He is out of options, and the Dodgers have 10 days to trade, release or -- if he goes unclaimed -- outright him to the Minor Leagues. Valdez hit .236 with five RBIs in 28 games this season.

Colletti said that there has been trade interest in Valdez and that an attempt would be made to trade him.

"He helped us win games, and when [Rafael] Furcal started the season on the disabled list [he] gave us a comfort level, but with Furcal healthy, it's changed," said Colletti. "The kid did a lot of things for us in a short time. He deserved to make the club out of Spring Training. To keep him in the system would be great, but if we can find a deal that makes sense, he deserves another Major League deal and we'll try."

Colletti picked risking the loss of Valdez over fellow utility infielder Ramon Martinez and termed it "a tough call."

"With our infield depth and the way [Tony] Abreu has played at Triple-A, that's where we're strongest right now," he said.

Colletti also confirmed that pitcher Joe Mays asked for his release. Mays, a former 18-game winner with Minnesota, was 1-2 with a 5.16 ERA at Las Vegas.

Schmidt stretches out: There's still no official timetable on Jason Schmidt's return from shoulder bursitis, but judging from the long-toss he played with trainer Stan Conte on Tuesday, the pain in his right shoulder is completely gone.

Schmidt gradually lengthened his throws until he could launch baseballs from the edge of the warning track in center field to Conte, who was standing on the left-field foul line near the tarp. Schmidt was easily throwing 275 feet on the fly and showing no signs of discomfort at any point.

He gradually cut down the distance to about 90 feet, continuing to throw with a pitching motion. He will probably throw off the bullpen mound as soon as Wednesday.

As a side note, Conte's arm looked playable.

No rotation change: Manager Grady Little was asked if he would replace Tomko in the starting rotation following his eight-run, 2 1/3-inning start Monday night.

"For one game? No," said Little, indicating Tomko would make his next scheduled start against the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday. "After a performance like that, it's best to turn the page and not think about it anymore."

Little said he wouldn't hesitate moving Chad Billingsley into the starting rotation when he felt it was necessary, but countered by saying he wasn't rushing into it either.

Booed at home: Tomko heard it from the crowd on Monday night, five games after flirting with a no-hitter. He was chased in the third inning of what he said was one of the worst games of his career. Dodger Stadium crowds have generally been viewed as genteel by baseball standards, but their treatment of Tomko was an exception and he sprinted off the mound.

"You're kidding yourself if you say you don't take it to heart," said Tomko. "It's tough to hear that at home, but it's the nature of the game. If I pitch better, I don't have to worry about it. Just don't give them any reason to boo. I just have to brush it off and get back out there and throw seven scoreless innings, and that's the best way to stop it."

Furcal en fuego: With a second consecutive four-hit game Monday night, Furcal has 10 hits in his last 11 at-bats and raised his average from .218 on Saturday to .276 after Monday's action.

"The first time I hit like that in two games," said Furcal.

The shortstop knocked a single to right and scored the Dodgers' first run on Tuesday. He added two more hits in his next two times at the plate, including a three-run triple in the third inning, to stretch his hot streak to 13 hits in 14 at-bats.

After missing much of Spring Training with shoulder and ankle injuries, the latter putting him on the disabled list for the first three weeks of the season, Furcal said he's still not 100 percent.

"You can't take the time to be 100 percent, but I feel good and I'm running the bases good," he said. "I don't think any player feels 100 percent every day. For me, I don't pay too much attention."

Furcal favored a sprained left ankle earlier this year, and lingering tenderness limited his ability to secure his backside while batting left-handed.

"I couldn't get a ball out of the infield, but now I'm seeing pitches and don't swing at bad pitches and I'm more patient at the plate and hitting the ball where I want," Furcal said.

Coming up: Randy Wolf (4-3, 3.94) opposes Kip Wells (1-7, 6.51) in Wednesday night's series finale at 7:10 PT. Wolf, 2-3 lifetime against the Cardinals, is coming off seven scoreless innings in a win against Cincinnati on Friday.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.