Kuo Wins Setup Man of Year Award

Hong-Chih Kuo was named the 2008 Set-Up Man of the Year, as voted on by fans on MLB.com. The award is part of the website's "This Year in Baseball Awards." The Taiwan native received 30.3 percent of the vote, ahead of Tampa Bay's Grant Balfour (19.2 percent), the Cubs' Carlos Marmol, and the Angels' Scot Shields. A record 12 million votes were cast, eclipsing last year's total of 9.6 million.

    Kuo's 1.69 ERA (13 ER/69.1 IP) as a reliever in 2008 led the National League and ranked seventh in the Majors (min. 50.0 innings). The 27-year-old bounced back from left rotator cuff and left elbow injuries in 2007 to pitch a career-high 80.0 innings over a career-best 42 games (three starts). 

Kuo went 5-3 with 12 holds, one save, and a 2.14 ERA overall.  He finished tied for second on the Dodgers in holds with Joe Beimel, behind only Jonathan Broxton's 13. In four Major League seasons with Los Angeles, Kuo is 7-13 with a 3.90 ERA in 87 games (14 starts).  

One of five Taiwan-born players in Major League Baseball history, Kuo struck out 96 batters in his 80.0 innings for an average of 10.80 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. He limited the opposition to a .204 average, including a .202 mark (19-for-94) by left-handed hitters.  Beginning July 27, left-handed hitters went just 3-for-23 (.130) against him.  

Kuo earned his first big league save on August 14 vs. Philadelphia, closing out a 3-1 win with a two scoreless innings.

Staying healthy had a great deal to do with the impressive numbers. Kuo was signed out of Taiwan for $1.25 million as a teenager, blew out his elbow in his first professional game after striking out seven of the 10 batters he faced and it's been a roller coaster ride ever since.

Over the first five years, he pitched a total of 42.1 innings (averaging fewer than nine innings per year). He missed all of 2003, was taken off the Major League roster at one point and could have been selected by any club in the Rule 5 Draft.

When his last rehab of many too an extra long time, he talked of quitting the game. He has often credited Darren Dreifort (who underwent two Tommy John surgeries) and Eric Gagné (one T.J.) for their support that kept him going. As recently as 2007, he had rotator cuff problems and elbow surgery, and his career was in jeopardy.

He signed in 1999 and has been in the organization longer than any other Dodger on the roster except for Jason Repko, who signed a week earlier. That year, Kevin Malone was general manager, Davey Johnson the field manager and Gary Sheffield and Eric Karros hit 34 home runs -- each.

He impressed Joe Torre with two scoreless innings of relief against the Padres during the Dodgers' goodwill series in China, and he made the club with a 1.69 spring ERA while holding opponents to a .121 average.

Because of Kuo's injury history, the Dodgers were extremely careful with him and after being used multiple innings he was given extra time off. Oddly enough, when he pitched multiple innings, his ERA was 0.38 and by June, Kuo had shoulder in front of Joe Beimel as the club's primary left-handed reliever.

He finally wore down and was limited to only one appearance from early September to early October, missing the first round of the playoffs, because of arm pain, but he returned for the National League Championship Series and allowed one earned run in three innings.

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