Kuo goes down, Houlton up

Times Staff Writer

Less than 24 hours after losing his third consecutive start, Hong-Chi Kuo was dropped from the Dodgers’ rotation and optioned to triple-A Las Vegas.

Right-hander D.J. Houlton was recalled from Las Vegas on Saturday to replace Kuo on the roster. The 27-year-old Houlton is 5-4 with a 3.90 earned-run average with Las Vegas.

Over his last three outings, Kuo has given up 17 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings. In the Dodgers’ series-opening 7-6 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night, Kuo gave up seven runs and six hits over 3 1/3 innings. He is 1-4 with a 7.42 ERA for the season, his lone victory coming June 12 when he held the New York Mets to one run over seven innings.

Dodgers Manager Grady Little said he didn’t think Kuo’s problems were related to mechanics or control.


“I think with this young man, I see it as more of an experience issue,” Little said. “When you look at his whole career, he hasn’t had many innings pitched. He’s kind of been thrown into the fire here but still has very few innings pitched in professional baseball. He needs to pitch some innings. He needs to get some experience.”

Kuo, 25, has started only 11 games and pitched 95 1/3 innings in the big leagues over the last three seasons.

Kuo said he understood the decision, stating, “I need to go back there and try to get better.”

Little was evasive about Kuo’s immediate future before Saturday’s game, saying the team would do “whatever it takes to make him better.”

“He has an awful good arm and we still feel like he has a good future, so we have to be really careful to how we react to a few bad games,” the manager said.

Houlton last pitched for the Dodgers in 2005, when he was 6-9 with a 5.16 ERA.

Little said Houlton wouldn’t take Kuo’s spot in the rotation and would pitch long relief.

That leaves Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko as options for a starting spot. Hendrickson, who last started May 31, pitched three scoreless innings in the loss to the Padres on Friday. Tomko gave up two runs in the 12th Saturday and took the loss.


Kuo’s dismal night on Friday had one highlight: For the first time in major league history, two Taiwanese pitchers appeared in the same game.

The second player was reliever Chin-hui Tsao, who pitched a perfect ninth inning. Tsao was activated from the 15-day disabled list that day.

“It was very special,” Kuo said. “It’s fun to see him back here.”

Tsao said his previously strained right shoulder “felt great,” in part because of the extra time he spent on the disabled list. Tsao hadn’t been active since May 20.


Second baseman Ramon Martinez, who has been sidelined because of back problems, will be sent to Las Vegas on a rehabilitation assignment Monday.

Little said that for Martinez, the assignment would be “like going to spring training again.” Martinez hasn’t played since June 3.

Martinez said that he recently visited a back specialist and that his back is feeling “pretty good.”


Right-hander Yhency Brazoban, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last week, has returned to work out with the Dodgers. He said he expects to start throwing again in three months.