The continuing saga of relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo, equal parts sad and inspiring over the years, has taken another turn for the worse.
Kuo was placed on the disabled list Wednesday because of an anxiety disorder. How long he will be out is a mystery. The exact issues affecting Kuo also are a mystery.
There have been signs that he's going through another case of the yips this season, and while that's the popular theory, there could be other issues causing the anxiety.
Kuo dramatically overthrew first base after a bunt over the weekend in New York and he's had trouble throwing to bases during routine pitchers fielding drills before batting practice.
In addition, he has walked six in 4 2/3 innings. Five of his eight pitches were balls Monday night, and two of the strikes were hit for doubles.
Still, Kuo hasn't experienced an all-out loss of control, such as what Rick Ankiel went through during the 2000 playoffs with the Cardinals.
It's also not as extreme as two years ago, when two of Kuo's pitches were airmailed from the Dodgers bullpen in left field and ended up at shortstop, and the other pitches weren't close to the strike zone either.
Manager Don Mattingly wasn't able to offer many details. During his pre-game meeting with reporters, before the Dodger beat the Pirates, 2-0, the Dodgers were still trying to get the right wording for the injury, and Mattingly talked more about elbow pain than something mental.
"There's not much I can tell you," Mattingly said. "When you talk about Kuo, he's always hurt. It's just, what level? The elbow always hurts. That never goes away, really. It's just how much he can deal with. To me, they are all inter-related."
In his career, Kuo underwent four elbow surgeries, including two Tommy John surgeries, and he's a medical marvel in a lot of ways. The medical staff affectionately calls him "the cockroach" because he refuses to go away.
Last year, after missing the first three weeks because of more arm trouble, Kuo turned in the performance of his life.
The year included a Dodgers' record 1.20 ERA (breaking the record of Eric Gagne), 12 saves after taking over the closer job of Jonathan Broxton in August, a microscopic 0.78 WHIP, 73 strikeouts in 60 innings, and an All-Star game appearance.
Over the weekend, Kuo successfully lobbied to get treated like any other pitcher. No restrictions and no babying. He pitched on consecutive days, something the team avoided the last few years.
But now, he's back on the disabled list. Mattingly said emphatically that Kuo wasn't considering retirement.
The Dodgers are hopeful their lovable cockroach will return one more time. But they don't know, and won't know anytime soon.
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