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Tomko unhappy about bullpen role

Times Staff Writer

Asked to move from the starting rotation to the bullpen last July, Brett Tomko was surprisingly enthusiastic. He talked about how it was best for the team and a breath of fresh air for his career.

Asked to make the same move Wednesday, Tomko became uncharacteristically sullen. The normally easygoing right-hander walked past reporters without a word after telling a Dodgers public relations official that he didn’t have time to talk about it.

Apparently Tomko didn’t take the news well behind closed doors, either. Manager Grady Little described their meeting diplomatically, saying, “It wasn’t the reaction he gave when I told him in spring training that he’d be one of our five starters.”

Tomko lost his starting berth because he gave up 13 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings over his last two starts. He is 1-5 with a 6.28 earned-run average and opponents are batting .306 against him.

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Hong-Chih Kuo will slide into the rotation if his next start at triple-A Las Vegas goes well. Kuo pitched four scoreless innings Wednesday against Tacoma. He is scheduled to pitch again Monday for Las Vegas, then make his first Dodgers start June 2 at Pittsburgh.

Tomko’s displeasure could stem from his anticipated role. He will be a long man, pitching mainly when the starter gets knocked out early. Last year he was a setup reliever and believed that in time he might become a closer.

“He did a good job out of the bullpen last year,” Little said. “We got on a roll in the second half largely due to him and [Jonathan] Broxton and [Takashi] Saito.”

Little wasn’t bothered by Tomko’s reaction.

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“Different people have different ways of responding when they hear things,” he said. “When it sinks in, he’ll be ready. It’s the best thing for the team.”

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The long, tedious recovery from elbow ligament replacement surgery officially ended for reliever Yhency Brazoban, who was called up from Las Vegas to fill a spot that opened when Chin-hui Tsao went on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder.

“It was a long road,” said Brazoban, who struck out the side and walked one in the ninth inning Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to helping the team.”

Brazoban last pitched for the Dodgers on April 12, 2006. He made only five appearances last season after making 105 the previous two seasons and setting a Dodgers rookie record with 21 saves in 2005.

Tsao, a pleasant surprise after signing as a free agent, felt tightness in the back of his shoulder when he threw sliders while warming up during Tuesday’s game. Trainer Stan Conte said the injury is unrelated to Tsao’s shoulder surgery in 2005 to repair a torn labrum.

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steve.henson@latimes.com

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