LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers activated reliever Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day disabled list before Sunday's game against the San Diego Padres, rather than having him make a fourth rehabilitation appearance for advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
But in a surprise move, the team cleared a roster spot for Kuo by optioning rookie right-hander Kenley Jansen to Double-A Chattanooga.
Jansen has a 7.43 ERA in 11 appearances, but that is mostly the result of two outings in which he gave up nine earned runs over 1 1/3 innings. In his nine others, Jansen has allowed two runs over 12 innings while giving up six hits, striking out 20 and walking four.
"It's a business,'' Jansen said. "I can't control it. They said it's not because I pitched badly but because I was the only one with [minor league] options.''
Club officials also would like Jansen to develop a solid second pitch to go with his overpowering fastball, which they believe he relies too heavily on.
"He needs to get a ... secondary pitch, a changeup or a slider,'' Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "He is good right now, but he has a chance to be really good. This kid has a strong work ethic and a lot of talent. The whole package is there. This will just be a little bit of a breather for him to concentrate on [that secondary pitch] and get back here.''
Jansen is a converted catcher who didn't really become a true prospect in the Dodgers organization until he switched to pitching just two years ago. He made an impressive big league debut last season, posting a 0.67 ERA in 25 appearances.
Kuo had been on the DL since April 15 with a left lower-back strain. The Dodgers had been operating without a left-hander in their bullpen ever since.
Kuo didn't fare well in his return. He allowed four runs in the Dodgers' 7-0 loss Sunday.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said there was talk of making room for Kuo by making a move with little-used veteran reliever Lance Cormier, who has a 10.13 ERA and has made only five appearances, none of which have come in the past week. But Cormier would have to be placed on waivers before he could be sent to the minors, and Cormier would have the right to refuse the assignment and become a free agent.
"We have used him, really, as protection for everybody else,'' Mattingly said. "Without being [insensitive] about it, Lance understands his role. There have been days when we have abused him, when he was out there two or three innings when the game was out of hand so we didn't have to use [Jonathan] Broxton or Kuo for an inning and then not have them available the next day. That is a valuable piece. When we don't need him, it doesn't seem valuable. But when we do, it's like, I'm glad we had him today because now the rest of our guys will be at full-strength tomorrow.''
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.