SAN DIEGO -- Struggling Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has had four consecutive ineffective outings that have Don Mattingly "a little bit" concerned, but the manager said he will continue to give Kuo the ball. There is no indication that the left elbow that has been operated on four times is bothering the southpaw. As for the anxiety disorder that sidelined Kuo for six weeks and has saddled him with the "yips" in past seasons, Kuo acknowledged Sunday that a lack of confidence "probably" is a contributing factor. Trainer Stan Conte said that would be normal.
"That kind of issue doesn't go away," Conte said. "It stayed there every pitch of 2010 [when Kuo was an All-Star]. It's all in how he's able to handle it. His elbow is OK and he tells me he can go out there." On Sunday, Kuo allowed three hits, including a home run, and a walk. But he also finished the inning with a pair of strikeouts. "If he didn't have a long inning, I wanted to send him back out," said Mattingly. "Those last two, he let it go. He's having trouble with his secondary pitches. I'm concerned about anybody that's struggling. But it's like [Rafael Furcal]. You know it's there. The guy that was throwing last year is there. We've got to get him back. I have to be confident to continue to use him. "Our misfortune is giving us the opportunity to keep putting him in there. If we were a game back, it would be a lot harder." Kuo, who earns $2.725 million this season, has allowed eight earned runs on six hits over two innings for his last four appearances with seven walks and three strikeouts. His ERA, 1.20 last year, is more than 10 times higher this year at 12.46. He recently said he hadn't thought about whether he would play next year. For their part, the Dodgers might choose to non-tender Kuo rather than commit to paying him more than $3 million without knowing what production they can expect.