Hong-Chih Kuo no longer fits into eighth-inning setup role

Call me lazy or whatever, but rather than typing this twice, I decided to simply go ahead and write it up for tomorrow’s paper and then copy/paste it here. So just ignore the dateline.

SAN FRANCISCO — One day after he declined for the second time in the past week to bring in eighth-inning setup man Hong-Chih Kuo to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Dodgers manager Joe Torre finally acknowledged before Tuesday night’s game with the San Francisco Giants that the role doesn’t necessarily belong to Kuo anymore.
With reliever Cory Wade due to come off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, Torre said he is the likely heir to the role. But Torre added that Wade will need to get back into the flow of pitching regularly in big-league games before he is given the job full-time. Until then, it appears the assignment will be doled out on a game-by-game basis.
Wade’s most recent appearance before being sidelined by bursitis in his right shoulder was on April 11 at Arizona.
“Cory would be that guy,” Torre said. “I also think I could flipflop both him and (Ronald) Belisario. I’m not sure I want to do that with Cory until he is back a while. But that would be ideal to do that, yeah.”
The problem with Kuo is his history of arm problems. He underwent two Tommy John surgeries while still in the minor leagues, he missed most of 2007 with injuries to both his shoulder and elbow, and he missed the final two weeks of last season and the first round of the playoffs with elbow soreness.
That basically prevents Torre from using Kuo in the way an eighth-inning setup man normally would be used. Torre is still reluctant to use Kuo in consecutive games, and one of the reasons he didn’t use him in Monday night’s loss to the Giants was because of the cold weather. In fact, while Belisario was pitching, blowing the one-run lead and losing the game, and Will Ohman was warming up in the bullpen, Kuo was warming up in the indoor batting cage.
Add to that Kuo’s recent inconsistency — in his past three appearances, eight of the 12 batters he has faced have reached base — and it becomes clear that he doesn’t fit the role.