Dodger Sign Chin-Hui Tsao

It appears the Dodgers will have two packages arriving from Taiwan next month, both bearing the label, "Fragile, handle with care. "What's inside could provide some excitement if nothing's broken.

The oft-injured Hong Chi Kuo you know about. Now, they've added a righthanded counterpart by signing Chin Hui Tsao to a contract that is provisional in that he'll have to pass a physical next week.

Tsao was once the top--rated prospect in the Rockies system, a pitcher they felt sure could become their closer with his fast ball that reached into the high 90's and a power curve.

However, a torn labrum in his shoulder put him out, his rehabilitation faltered and he was released. But he impressed the Dodgers in a recent workout, seems healthy enough and was clocked at 94 during the session. So, he's been signed for a modest $400, 000.

Modest especially when you consider the Rockies forked over $2.2 million to sign him in 1999. He blazed through the minors, overpowering batters everywhere with ease, made it to Colorado late in 2003 but has pitched little since his injury put him out. In fact, he didn't pitch at all in 2006.

The careers of Kuo and Tsao have been remarkably parallel. Both were teenage sensations at the same time in Taiwan with the Dodgers among others pursuing the pair. They were able to get Kuo but Tsao went for the considerable Colorado offer.

There's no question about either when they're right. The question is just how often they can go out there full bore.

The Rockies signed Tsao for $2.2 million in 1999 and Baseball America rated him as the club's top prospect three times. His fastball was clocked at 100 mph when he pitched for Taiwan during the 2004 Olympics, and the Rockies hoped he would become their closer.

During short stints with the Rockies in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Tsao was 4-3 with four saves and a 5.80 earned-run average in 63.2 innings. He was 29-20 with a 2.74 ERA in the minors, striking out 431 and walking 93 in 371 innings.

The team will offer Tsao a chance to make the big league bullpen this spring although there's no much thought that he will immediately. He has one option left so will probably be sent out to build up the innings with the hope of reviving a career that once seemed destined for major accomplishments.

He's 25 years old now so the Dodgers figure they can get a lot out of him- if he's truly healthy once more.