Dodgers Kuo Shutdown After Feeling Pain

Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been scratched from an upcoming five-game exhibition series in his native Taiwan after experiencing discomfort in his left elbow. He will meet tomorrow with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to determine the cause of the soreness and the severity of the injury, but Dodgers medical services made the decision to hold Kuo out of the Taiwan series as a precaution.

Tony Jackson of reports that Kuo was to pitch for Taiwan against a select team of major leaguers. He had been throwing in Los Angeles for four weeks -- not at Dodger Stadium and not under team supervision -- in preparation for that exhibition series.

"He was ramping back up and doing fine, but he felt pain in his elbow," Conte said. "He called me ... I thought it over, and with his history of elbow problems, we wanted to be sure. He didn't sound real confident that his elbow is OK throwing (in Taiwan), so we decided not to send him there."

Kuo, 30, has been on the disabled list six times in seven big league seasons, three of them with elbow injuries, and has undergone elbow surgery four times in his professional career, including two Tommy John reconstructions before he ever got to the majors. He also missed six weeks in 2011 while battling a mild case of the yips on the mound. Even after returning in June, Kuo still battled intermittent control problems for the rest of the year.

"I thought it would be better for him to see Dr. ElAttrache because of his history," Conte said. "It wasn't anything (specific) he was telling me, but just the fact he called me and was concerned was enough for me."

Conte said it was impossible to speculate on the severity of the situation, but Alan Chang, Kuo's Chicago-based agent, said the fact Kuo had been pitching without pain for four weeks was a reason for optimism.

"We don't want to prematurely make any evaluation on what this is until after the doctor looks at it and makes his recommendation," Chang said. "But it doesn't sound really serious. The Dodgers have been very protective of Kuo."

Kuo, who clearly was frustrated toward the end of a season in which he pitched just 27 innings and walked 23 batters, hinted to a reporter for the Dodgers' website in September that he might retire. But Chang said earlier this week that Kuo, who was a National League All-Star in 2010, has no intention of doing so and remains committed to pitching in 2012.

Where Kuo will pitch in 2012 is another matter. This is his final winter of arbitration-eligibility, but the Dodgers are highly unlikely to go that route with him because he made $2.725 million in 2011 and would get at least a moderate raise despite posting a 9.00 ERA and appearing in only 40 games. That means the team is almost certain to non-tender Kuo, making him a free agent a year ahead of schedule, then attempt to re-sign him at a lower salary.

Even if Kuo's latest elbow injury doesn't prove to be severe, he won't be able to pitch in that series in his homeland, which is scheduled for Nov. 1-6.

"He was very disappointed," Chang said. "He was looking forward to pitching in front of his hometown fans. There are 23 million people in Taiwan, and they are all big baseball fans. He was very excited to go back there and pitch. But this is something he has dealt with before, this type of setback, and you can only control your response to things that come up."

Roster Outlook
No matter how the Dodgers' ownership battle may be come out, Ned Colletti must endure uncertainty for one more offseason as he tries to improve the team's offense and sign a veteran starter.

Ted Lilly ($25.5 million), Chad Billingsley ($35 million). Juan Uribe ($16 million and Matt Guerrier ($9.75 million) have guarenteed contracts over the next few years.

Matt Kemp ($16.3 million), Clayton Kershaw ($8.4 million). James Loney ($6.5 million), Hong-Chih Kuo ($2.5 million and Tony Gwynn ($1.1 million are arbitration eligible>

Hiroki Juroda, Jonathan Broxton, Casey Blake, Juan Rivera, Jon Garland, Rod Baarajas, Jamey Carroll, Vicente Padilla, Mike McDougal and Aaron Miles are free agents.

While the bankruptcy hearings begin on Halloween, as Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is asking for the ability to auction the team's television rights while Fox and MLB seek termination of McCourt's ownership. Despite that important date, the club must make some crucial decisions immediately. Even if MLB does force the sale of the Dodgers, it'd take months to get new ownership approved.  In the interim, it seems unrealistic for MLB to approve adding a massive amount of debt.

Unless salaries are reduced through multiyear deals, Kemp, Keershaw and Loney could eat up $35 million in salary.

If they somehow sign Pujols or Fielder (don't bet the farm on either), they could probably move Loney's contract before the season begins.  Uribe is set at third base and Dee Gordon at short, leaving second base unoccupied. Jerry Sands will get a long look in left and rookie Tim Fedeerowicz and A.J. Ellis will probably be back of he plate. Gwynn and Rivera could return as bench players.

If Kuroda is re-signed, and apparently the decision is up to him, the rotation should be in good shape. Kershaw, Billingsley and Lilly could be joined by Nate Eovaldi. The pen is pretty well sset with Colletti looking for one more veteran.

Kemp Wins 2011 Hank Aaron Award
Major League Baseball announced that Matt Kemp has been selected as the winners of the 2011 Hank Aaron Award. This is the second consecutive year Bautista has won the award. Established in 1999 to honor the 25th Anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and recognizes the most outstanding offensive performers in each League.

     Fans voted for the award on, and for the second straight year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Hank Aaron joined fans in voting for the award. The Hall of Fame panel included two new members – personally selected by Hank Aaron – Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan. They joined panelists from last year, which included Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams and Robin Yount, forming a group comprised of some of the greatest offensive players of all-time who combined for 23,536 hits, 11,445 RBI and exactly 2,800 home runs.

"I congratulate Matt Kemp on being this year's recipients of the 2011 National League Hank Aaron Award, named for one of the true pillars of our game," Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said.

"Matt enjoyed an extraordinary year, vying for the National League Triple Crown in the season's final days and stealing 40 bases on the year. The best is yet to come for him. I look forward to watching him in the years ahead."

"It is a real privilege to have my name on the award that recognizes the most outstanding offensive performer in each League," said Hank Aaron. "I want to congratulate Matt on his fantastic season and express my gratitude to the Hall of Famers and fans who helped select this year's winners."

      Kemp, 27, batted .324 (third in the N.L.) with 39 home runs and 126 RBI in 2011, leading the National League in homers, RBI, runs scored (115) and total bases (353). The 2011 N.L. All-Star also finished among league leaders in multi-hit games (57, tied for first), hits (195, second), slugging percentage (.586, second), extra-base hits (76, second), stolen bases (40, tied for second), on-base percentage (.399, fourth) and walks (74, tied for eighth). 

Kemp became the seventh player in Major League history to finish the season ranked in the top three in homers, batting average, RBI and stolen bases in their respective league, joining Hall of Famers Ty Cobb (1907, 1909-11), Honus Wagner (1908), George Sisler (1920), Chuck Klein (1932), Willie Mays (1955) and Hank Aaron (1963). In addition, the sixth round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was the first Dodger to lead the N.L. in home runs and RBI since Dolph Camilli in 1941 and the first Dodger in history to lead the N.L. in homers, RBI and runs scored.  Kemp, who hit .335 on the year with runners in scoring position, is one of five players all-time to eclipse 30 homers, 35 stolen bases, 100 RBI and a .310 average, joining Ken Williams (1922), Barry Bonds (1992), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Vladimir Guerrero (2002).

     Past winners of include: Jose Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); David Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

Frank and Bud Trade Barbs
Major League Baseball claims that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt took nearly $190 million from the team in what a court filing termed "looting.".

In filings in a Delaware court, MLB said McCourt took $189.16 from the club -- $73 million in parking lot revenue through a separate company, $61.16 to pay personal debts, and $55 million for personal distributions, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing documents.

"The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers' fan base," the MLB filing said.

The filing said the distributions were akin to "looting."

The Dodgers countered that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig approved the parking lot deal. They also said in filings that Selig acted in bad faith when he said he would reject a new team television contract. Both MLB and the Dodgers cited Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was injured in a parking lot beating on Opening Day 2011, in their latest filings.

MLB said the Stow incident was an example of how a lack of security was an example of bad ownership by McCourt. The Dodgers countered that Selig "set about fabricating the public misimpression that security at Dodger Stadium was somehow inadequate. This is, by far, the most unforgivable action taken by the commissioner during this entire saga, and has caused enormous and irreparable harm to the Dodgers, Mr. McCourt and the game of baseball."

In addition, the United States trustee in charge of the case agreed to put two season-ticket holders on the creditors' committee.

Ticket Prices Cut
After a season in which the Dodgers played to a half-empty stadium, the team announced Monday that the price of almost every season ticket would be reduced next season, some by as much as 60%.

The Dodgers will cut prices for mini-plans and single-game tickets as well, said Dave Siegel, senior director of ticket sales. Those prices will be announced at a later date, he said.

The Dodgers sold 2.9 million tickets last season, their smallest total in a nonstrike year since 1992. The Dodgers ranked 11th in the major leagues in tickets sold last season, trailing among other teams the Milwaukee Brewers. the team that plays in the smallest market in the majors.

The Dodgers had ranked among the top three in tickets sold every year since 2004, when Frank McCourt bought the team. They sold about 17,000 season tickets this season, down from about 27,000 four years ago.

In addition to the price cuts, Siegel said, the Dodgers are enhancing the value of season tickets by adding such perks as early access to the ballpark, the chance to play catch on the field after several day games and an on-field viewing party for the All-Star game.

The most drastic price cuts occurred in the seats closest to the foul poles. Field-level seats in the area once known as Mannywood were cut 60%, from $40 to $16. Loge seats in the corners were cut 40%, from $25 to $15.

Season seats on the reserved level and outside the bases will be sold for $6 per ticket — the lowest such price in 24 years, according to the team. Season seats on the top deck will cost $5 per ticket.