Tsao, 25, signed a split contract with a salary of $425,000 if he is in the majors and $125,000 if he isn't, a figure well above that of the average minor leaguer. He had agreed to sign with the Dodgers on January 18.
'Chin-hui was one of the more promising young relievers in the game as recently as two years ago,'' Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. ''He's battled through some difficult injuries, but at his young age we are excited about him coming to spring training, competing for a spot on the roster and seeing what he can do when he is healthy.'
Tsao would probably make the club out of spring training only if the Dodgers probably will have to carry a 12-man pitching staff since six bullpen spots already appear to be taken. Closer Takashi Saito, setup man Jonathan Broxton and middle relievers Joe Beimel, Elmer Dessens and Brett Tomko are locks. Another spot will be filled either by veteran Rudy Seanez, who was signed last week to a minor-league deal, or by the odd-man out in the battle for the fifth starter's job, either Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo or Mark Hendrickson.
Colorado signed Tsao for $2.2 million in 1999. He was 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA and four saves for the Rockies from 2003-05, and had a 29-20 record and 2.74 ERA in the minors. The Rockies declined to offer him a contract this winter.
The right-hander has spent his entire big league career in the Rockies' organization, appearing in 29 games from 2003-05 and going 4-3 with four saves in those contests. The reliever was rated as Colorado's No. 1 prospect by Baseball America in 2001, 2002 and 2004 as well as being named the Rockies' Organizational Player of the Year in 2003.
Tsao became the first Taiwanese-born pitcher to appear in the Major Leagues when he made his Major League debut and won his first big-league game on July 25, 2003 against Milwaukee. He was also the first player born in Taiwan to get a hit when he doubled off New York's Steve Trachsel at Shea Stadium on Aug. 18, 2003.
Dodger left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo was the third Taiwanese-born pitcher to make the Major Leagues when he debuted in 2005 and former Los Angeles outfielder Chin-Feng Chen was the first Taiwanese player to appear in a big league contest when he played on Sept. 14, 2002.
A national hero in Taiwan, Tsao has represented his country in five major competitions, including the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece where he made two appearances for Chinese Taipei, compiling a 1.93 ERA and one save.