Hong-Chih Kuo returning Sunday?

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who abruptly left the team on May 11 when he suffered a relapse of the yips, is tentatively expected to return from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.

Kuo made back-to-back appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday and Thursday, inheriting a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second appearance and getting out of it with consecutive strikeouts, the presumed final test before he returns.

Rookie reliever Kenley Jansen, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 29 with inflammation in his right shoulder, also looks like a strong bet to be activated this weekend. He is targeted for Saturday.

"Kuo absolutely did everything we asked him to do,'' Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte said. "We are very pleased with what happened (Thursday) night from a mental and physical standpoint. We wanted them to put him in a situation that was fairly high-pressure. ... All we can do is increase the pressure and see how he reacts, which he did very, very well.

"In reality, nobody really knows what will happen until he gets into a major league game.''

Kuo has had at least two battles with the yips, an inability to throw the ball where he wants to, and this one seems milder than the previous one that affected him two years ago. Conte said Kuo's rehabilitation has included time with Dr. Jim Sparing, a psychiatrist at UCLA, and Ken Ravizza, a sports psychologist at Cal State-Fullerton.

Kuo planned to play catch before Friday night's game against the Houston Astros as a final gauge of whether he is ready.

"We'll see where we go from there,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Elsewhere on the Dodgers' injury front, reliever Jonathan Broxton, who has been on the 15-day DL since May 6 with a bone bruise on his right elbow, threw a simulated game and is expected to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment sometime in the next few days. Conte said it likely will be at Albuquerque and will include at least two appearances.

It remains unclear whether right-hander Jon Garland, who has been shelved since June 4 with shoulder inflammation, will return at all this year. Conte said Garland planned to meet with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to see how quickly he can start throwing.

Third baseman Casey Blake received a cortisone injection to relieve an arthritic condition in his neck that has kept him out of the starting lineup for several days. He is still available to pinch hit, but was planning to take ground balls before the game to see if he felt comfortable playing defensively.

Finally, veteran right-hander Vicente Padilla, who probably is done for the season, underwent surgery in which a disc was removed from his neck. He will have to wear a collar for about two weeks, after which he will begin a rehab program.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.