Kuroda to return to rotation Monday

Kuroda to return to rotation Monday

CHICAGO -- Hiroki Kuroda will return to the Dodgers' starting rotation Monday night for the opener of a nine-game homestand, manager Joe Torre announced before Friday's game with the Cubs.

Kuroda, out since an Opening Day win because of a strained left oblique muscle, cleared the final hurdle by throwing a bullpen session in Los Angeles on Friday morning. He had made two rehab starts for Class A Inland Empire, the most recent on Wednesday, when he allowed seven runs in five innings.

But Torre is eager to get his warrior back in the rotation.

"If he's fine," Torre said, "he'll start Monday."

Clayton Kershaw, originally scheduled to start Monday night, will be on stand-by in the bullpen should Kuroda need early relief. That also will keep Randy Wolf and Chad Billingsley on their regular five-day cycle. If Kershaw is not needed Monday night, he would likely start Thursday night.

Torre said he hasn't decided who will be removed from the rotation to make room for Kuroda, but it will be one of two left-handers -- Eric Stults or Eric Milton -- who are scheduled to start the Saturday and Sunday night games against the Cubs this weekend.

Stults is currently dealing with a jammed pitching thumb that remains sore and stiff. After missing a start because of it, he returned to start in Colorado on Monday, was given a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning, but couldn't get out of the fifth, walking seven.

Milton lasted only four innings in his first Dodgers start May 16, was skipped a turn, then followed Stults on Tuesday in Colorado with his first Major League win in nearly three years, although he lasted only five innings.

Whichever one comes out of the rotation figures to go into the bullpen and replace Will Ohman as the second left-handed reliever after rookie Brent Leach.

Milton has relieved only once in a 12-year Major League career, and he's coming off a two-year recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, two factors that make it likely he'll remain in the rotation. Stults, a veteran of 2003 Tommy John surgery, has 22 starts and nine relief appearances in the Major Leagues, but his career starting ERA is 4.15 and his relief ERA is 7.65.

Ohman was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the club announced was an irritated acromioclavicular joint (where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade), as well as a 5.84 ERA. He returned to Los Angeles.

Catcher A.J. Ellis was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to replace Ohman, but only until Kuroda is activated.

"It means that in the fifth inning, instead of using a pitcher to pinch-hit [which Torre has done lately because of a 13-man pitching staff], we'll have a catcher hit," he said. "This came up all of a sudden. There was nobody down there pitching-wise we felt was ready to come up."

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