DENVER -- At the end of the weekend in which the unreliability of the Los Angeles Dodgers' injury-depleted bullpen has been underscored repeatedly, there was good news before Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, as relievers Hong-Chih Kuo, Jonathan Broxton and Kenley Jansen all took major steps in their efforts to return from the disabled list.
First, setup man Kuo appeared to take a major step forward on Saturday night in his effort to come back from his latest bout with the yips, pitching a perfect eighth inning for advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga against Visalia. Kuo had hoped to test himself by coming into the middle of an inning with runners on base, but that didn't work out because highly touted pitching prospect Ethan Martin had pitched a perfect seventh.
Still, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the reports he got on Kuo's performance were that the once-dominating left-hander looked much more like himself.
"His velocity was up, which was kind of a good sign,'' Mattingly said. "He touched 96 (mph), where before he was at 92. Last night, he was (between) 92-96, so that tells you maybe he was letting it go a little bit more and feeling free about letting it go.''
Mattingly said it will be Kuo's decision what to do next, which has been the case since Kuo abruptly left the team on May 11 feeling that he could no longer command the ball.
Broxton, the Dodgers' erstwhile All-Star closer who has been on the 15-day DL since May 6 with a bone bruise in his right elbow and wasn't especially effective before that, is now tentatively slated to begin a minor league rehabilitation early next week. Broxton will throw off a mound for the third time on Tuesday and then a simulated game on Friday, a plan Mattingly conceded tentatively sets Broxton up to begin rehab assignment next week.
Meanwhile, although Jansen pitched two perfect innings in his second rehab appearance for Double-A Chattanooga on Saturday night, retired all nine batters he has faced in those two appearances and becomes eligible to be activated on Monday, Mattingly said the club might wait until later in the week to bring him back so that Jansen can make another two-inning appearance for the Lookouts.
"We want to get him stretched out and be able to go two (innings),'' Mattingly said. "He went two innings last night, but is one time enough for that? Just talking theoretically, if he could take today and (Monday) off, then go again on Tuesday.''
Mattingly said with the Dodgers having an off-day on Thursday, that could put Jansen on target to return on Friday night against the Houston Astros. However, Mattingly said that could change if the Dodgers have to use several relievers on Sunday against the Rockies, which might necessitate bringing Jansen back on Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.