LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo was added to the National League All-Star team on Sunday, giving the team four representatives and making Kuo the first Taiwanese All-Star in major league history.
Kuo was given the spot vacated when Atlanta Braves rookie outfielder Jason Heyward bowed out because of an injury and Braves closer Billy Wagner declined an offer to fill Heyward's spot because of a sore left ankle.
Kuo joins Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, who was voted in by fans as a starter; closer Jonathan Broxton; and shortstop Rafael Furcal, who was added on Saturday to replace Jose Reyes of the New York Mets. The Dodgers haven't had four All-Star representatives since 1995, when they had five.
Kuo said he learned of his selection when he got a phone call early Sunday from Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.
"When I answered the phone, I wondered why Ned would be calling me," Kuo said. "I usually don't get phone calls from him. I thought something was happening to me. I thought I had done a bad thing."
This season, Kuo has done nothing but good things, becoming one of the most dominating left-handed setup men in the game. Kuo entered Sunday night's game against the Chicago Cubs having posted a 1.03 ERA in 25 appearances this season, allowing only three runs all year. Left-handed batters are hitless in 30 at-bats against him, with 16 strikeouts and three walks.
That leaves Kuo one short of the major league record for the most consecutive left-handed batters retired to start a season, which was set by Mike Matthews of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001. (Source: ESPN Stats and Information).
For Kuo, who will turn 29 later this month, it has been a long and literally agonizing road to get to this point. He underwent two Tommy John reconstructions on his left elbow before he ever got to the major leagues and an additional procedure on his left shoulder after he got to the big leagues. He has been on the disabled list four times in his five major league seasons, including the 60-day twice.
Kuo still undergoes a daily treatment regimen of about six hours just to get himself ready to pitch, and manager Joe Torre still won't use him on consecutive days.
"I don't know what you can say about Kuo," Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said. "There have been so many ups and downs regarding his medical situation that he has had to work through. We didn't think he was going to make it through in 2007, we didn't think he was going to make it through in 2008, and we didn't think he was going to make it through in 2009. But he is going to make it through this year.
"As Kuo and I always say to each other, it's one more day. One more day."
Kuo, one of six Taiwanese-born players to play in the majors, seemed to shrug off his groundbreaking status as the first one to make an All-Star team.
"I won't be the last one," he said. "At least I hope not. But it's a good thing for me."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com