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Dodgers activate lefty reliever Kuo

Dodgers activate lefty reliever Kuo

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers welcomed back reliever Hong-Chih Kuo Monday but still don't have a confirmed starter for Friday night in Atlanta.

The day after Jason Schmidt lasted only three-plus innings and spotted Florida a five-run head start, manager Joe Torre met with the veteran. Torre said no decision has been reached on who will start when Schmidt's turn comes up, which, coincidentally, falls on the same day as the Trade Deadline.

"He still doesn't know where he's at and he's honest about it," Torre said. "He'll have his bullpen session tomorrow and we'll make a decision. We're still thinking it over."

General manager Ned Colletti might make the decision for Torre if he succeeds in acquiring a starting pitcher. The Dodgers have scouted Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, as well as other second-tier starters like Aaron Harang.

The Dodgers have a 13-man pitching staff with the addition of Kuo. The relievers with significant starting experience are Jeff Weaver, who has made five starts this year, Claudio Vargas and rookie James McDonald. Torre prefers to hold back Weaver for long-relief duty; Vargas, coming off right elbow problems, hasn't been stretched out long enough to be a logical option; McDonald opened the season as the fifth starter and lost the job but has pitched well in relief since returning from a Minor League demotion.

Another in-house option is left-hander Eric Stults, who started very effectively after Hiroki Kuroda's April injury until Stults sprained his thumb in May. Stults has won his past four starts for Triple-A Albuquerque, including a win in a day game Monday, which would seem to rule him out as he'd have only three days' rest were he to return and pitch for the Dodgers on Friday night.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers activated Kuo for Monday night's game, nearly three months after putting him on the disabled list with another in his endless series of left elbow injuries that had many in the organization fearing for his career.

"It's up to me to screw him up," Torre said sarcastically, knowing that Kuo is a risk with every pitch. "We'll limit him to one inning, starting the inning, until he's more comfortable, and one warmup. He's gone back-to-back [last week at Class A] and it wasn't an issue. Beyond one inning could happen later."

Torre said a healthy Kuo could change the dynamics of his bullpen, which has lost Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade to injuries, although Wade is already on a rehab assignment and Belisario might join him before the week is over.

"He can be an eighth-inning piece," Torre said of Kuo. "We have no problem with him responsibility-wise. Out of the box, whether that's tonight is another story."

The Dodgers made room for Kuo on the 40-man roster by moving outfielder Xavier Paul from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day list. Paul, originally sidelined by a staph infection, is still hobbled by a microfracture of the left ankle he suffered while on a rehab assignment, but he is making enough progress to have begun baseball activities.

After Sunday's game, infielder Blake DeWitt was optioned back to Albuquerque to make room for Kuo on the active roster. It was DeWitt's fifth return to Albuquerque this year. No Dodger has made the round trip from Los Angeles to Triple-A more than three times since at least 1988.

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

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