February 10 – Happy Birthday Hiroki Kuroda
Excuse me for not getting too excited about the recent Yankee free-agent signing of former Dodger starting pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda. I can only remember seeing the Japanese right-hander pitch one time and that was when he started Game 3 of the 2009 NLCS versus the Phillies. The teams had split the first two games of the Series in LA and Joe Torre had selected Kuroda to face the Phillies’ Cliff Lee in the first contest to be played at Citizens Bank Park. It was a huge momentum game and Kuroda wasn’t up to the challenge. He gave up four runs on four hits in the first and then two doubles and another Philadelphia run before Torre mercifully pulled him with one out in the second. The Phillies won that game 11-0 and went on to win the next two games at home to advance to the World Series.
To be fair to Kuroda, he had been much more successful in his previous two postseason starts for the Dodgers, beating the Cubs in the 2008 NLDS and the Phillies in that year’s NLCS. But I hadn’t seen him pitch in either of those games which is why my first impression of him was not a good one.
His four year record as a Dodger starter was 41-46 with an ERA of 3.45. He uses four pitches, the best of which is his fastball, which he can crank up to 97 mph when necessary. He has decent control but he also has had some arm issues. I’m also more than a bit concerned that he will surrender to many home runs to that short right field gap in Yankee Stadium and his ERA facing lineups that include a DH in place of a pitcher will climb into the high fours.
He turns 36-years-old today and the Yankees only gave him a one year deal. My hope is he benefits from pitching to AL lineups that know little about him and also by being reunited with Russell Martin and gets off to a fast start. My fear is we got another Javier Vasquez on our hands.