While with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2010 season, left-handed relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo played in 56 games, appeared in 60 innings, allowed 29 hits, only one home run, struck out 73, walked only 18 and had an ERA of 1.20. He was one of the league's most dominant lefty relievers that season, and he completely fell apart in 2011.
After his fifth elbow surgery, Kuo was placed on the DL due to an anxiety disorder that kept him from throwing the ball over the plate. His ERA dropped from 1.20 to 9.00, he only struck out 36, walked 23 and allowed 29 runs. After the 2011 season, he became a free agent and the Dodgers, understandably, decided not to re-sign him.
He signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners and is working on getting his confidence back. Kuo thinks that he'll be just fine as long as his elbow holds up.
"If I stay healthy, I'll be able to do whatever I want to do," said Kuo, adding he has felt great in camp thus far after arthroscopic surgery Oct. 28. "I'll be able to get my confidence back and really be able to show people what I can do."
Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis knows that Kuo could be great for the team if his 2012 season is anything like his 2011 season, but he also understands that he can't push Kuo to get to that point to quickly. He needs to let him get back to where he was on his own.
"I've seen a guy that throws strikes in Spring Training in the bullpen," Willis said. "I think that's huge because he needs to take that confidence he has in those bullpens out into games and pound the strike zone, because his stuff is not a question."
On Friday night, in a game-like situation, Kuo walked two batters and retired the other three in a simulated inning. He is not going to be pitching in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage, but he will be working out his arm on the side.
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