LA feels good about Saito's return

LA feels good about Saito's return

PITTSBURGH -- The Dodgers seem relatively confident they will have Takashi Saito in their bullpen the rest of the way.

But Hong-Chih Kuo? Maybe not so much.

After two months on the shelf with a partially torn right elbow ligament, Saito came out of Monday night's first appearance saying he felt fine. Manager Joe Torre said he would try to use Saito again in Thursday's day game.

"He felt fine, just the normal soreness," Torre said. "My sense is we'll wait until Thursday. He made 21 pitches. We may not have to, but I'd just as soon give him the extra day. We can throw him out there and I don't think the score will affect what we do."

Although Saito's fastball velocity was noticeably down from his normal 93-94 mph and he walked one with an eight-run lead, he also struck out a pair and wasn't hesitant to throw his slider.

Kuo, meanwhile, continues to take treatment for a flare-up of triceps fatigue in his left elbow, which has already had four operations. He had a cortisone injection last Thursday and pitched Sunday for the first time in a week, but the irritation returned.

This time, he said, he will not even play catch for several days, but there is growing concern about his availability and durability, not only for the final 12 games, but beyond.

Brad Penny, troubled much of the year by shoulder problems, also pitched an inning Monday night and also lacked his normal velocity, allowing a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche in the ninth. Torre spoke with Penny after the game and said Penny is not comfortable pitching in relief. But Torre said there's no other way for Penny to build arm strength for what appears to be a long-shot bid to return to the rotation.

"I don't think he can start unless he gets innings under his belt and it's hard in a pennant race," Torre said. "[In Penny] I haven't seen somebody who can go out and give us any kind of length. I'd like to see a couple appearances under his belt so he can let the ball go and know what to expect. I told him yesterday, if we get to the postseason, if he's comfortable, he's certainly one of the guys you'd consider with his experience there."

Injured shortstop Rafael Furcal had his best workout since rejoining the club after back surgery. Furcal said the area of the disc repair seems completely healed and he looked comfortable batting from both sides of the plate and in infield drills that tested all skills except range.

What remains is a lingering discomfort in his right hamstring area when he pushes off, which might be as much lingering nerve damage from the disc as hamstring tissue strain. Either way, he still doesn't have the explosion needed for running or covering ground at shortstop.

Although Andre Ethier returned from three days away attending to the birth of his child, that didn't mean his replacement, Juan Pierre, was back on the bench. Coming off his first home run in two years, Pierre remained in the lineup, as Torre sat down Matt Kemp.

"Kemp got frustrated last night," Torre said. "He's hard on himself."

With the Pirates scheduled to start left-handers Zach Duke and Paul Maholm on Wednesday and Thursday, Torre indicated Kemp would likely return to the lineup for those games. However, Pierre still might start Thursday, when Torre is considering resting Manny Ramirez for the first time since his acquisition.

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