LHP Hong-Chih Kuo -- Prospect #12

Latest in a series on the top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best.

Position- Relief Pitcher
Residence- Tainan City, Taiwan
DOB- July 23, 1981
Ht- 6-0
Wt- 200
B/T- L/L
05 Clubs- Vero Beach (High A), Jacksonville (AA), Los Angeles (National)

There's a tendency to refer to the amazing comeback of Kuo but when you think about it, he didn't come back to anything - he was never there. After all, he pitched in only 39 innings over a five year span after his tantalizing 2000 debut when he struck out seven men in nine innings only to feel his elbow pop on his next-to-last pitch.

After that, there was to be two major surgeries, numerous invasive procedures and interminable rehabilitation wrapped around occasional forays to the mound in which, sometimes, he flashed the prowess he possessed.

There was a tendency to write him off at several points either because he had just too much elbow damage or because he just didn't seem able to pitch in pain - either or both, take your pick.

But in 2005 he was finally getting out there; at first, sporadically, then, more frequently. He was backed off a couple of times, more for precautionary purposes than anything else as he shot up the ladder, starting in Vero Beach for 11 games (1-1, 2.08), up to Jacksonville (17 games, 1-1, 1.91), establishing that he could get into games at least three times a week and be effective until he was whisked up to L.A. as the best available lefthander for the bullpen.

He pitched in nine big league games for a total of only five innings as a situational lefty, was banged around at the start, then started throwing the ball past hitters as he had in the minors. He wound up 0-1, 6.75, and probably was tired at the end for he was doing something he never had been able to do before in both his on and off the mound routine for, remember, he was always considered a starter previously.

When he's right, he has a nice easy motion from which the ball seems to jump.

His fast ball has been clocked as high as 98 mph and has good life to it, his curve has a strong, sharp break and his changeup is effective also although he didn't use that much in his short stints.

He's currently on the roster for the Chinese-Taipei team in the upcoming World Classic so he won't be in camp to compete for the bullpen lefthander role until later in the spring.

Chances are, he'll go to Las Vegas to get ready for a call. Doubts about his durability quite naturally remain but if he holds up, he could be very special and might even be considered for the rotation at some point.