Reliever Kuo couldn't feel fingers while warming up, could return for NLCS

SAN FRANCISCO -- Los Angeles lefty reliever Hong-Chih Kuo will not pitch in the NL division series for the Dodgers as a precaution because of a possible condition with his circulation.

Kuo, the Dodgers' top middle reliever with 96 strikeouts in 80 innings, warmed up in the bullpen to pitch in relief Saturday night at San Francisco but said he couldn't feel his fingers and didn't enter the game. He then threw for about 15 minutes in the indoor cage and still was having problems with numbness -- and his skin became red.

The Dodgers didn't want to take any chances Kuo, who has a long history of injury problems, might have a blood clot. He will undergo more tests in the coming days, then head to instructional league in Arizona to determine whether he might be available if the NL West champions advance to the National League Championship Series.

After the game, athletic trainer Stan Conte took Kuo to the emergency room at a local hospital, where the pitcher underwent a doppler ultrasound to check how his blood was circulating. The test was negative, signaling that his blood was flowing normally.

"I couldn't feel the ball," Kuo said, noting he's not overly concerned and hopes to return soon. "I'll do my best. It's sad, but I've just got to get better. What can I do?"

Los Angeles manager Joe Torre and Conte had hoped to see Kuo pitch an inning against the Giants to get a better idea of how his elbow was doing, then the latest issue emerged.

Kuo is 5-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 42 outings this season and has been limited in recent weeks because of a tender elbow. The Dodgers will be cautious with him considering Kuo already has been through four elbow operations, including two Tommy John reconstructions.

The 27-year-old Kuo had bone chips surgically removed from his elbow last summer.

Coming into this season, Kuo, who is from Tainan City, Taiwan, had pitched only 265 innings in seven professional seasons mainly as a starter.

He began the 2007 campaign on the disabled list because of a rotator cuff injury, something that started during spring training when he initially failed to tell trainers he wasn't feeling right. He was activated May 3 that year and sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he pitched seven games between two separate stints in Los Angeles, but by June 30 he was back on the DL with elbow inflammation that led to season-ending surgery.

In addition, right-hander Ramon Troncoso, outfielder Jason Repko and infielder Chin-lung Hu will report to instructional league to stay sharp in case they are needed later in the postseason. And left-hander Eric Stults will join his winter ball team in Mexico to get some additional work.