Hiroki Kuroda not used to three days' rest, but he'll give it a shot

Hiroki Kuroda looks on during against the Baltimore Hiroki Kuroda looks on during against the Baltimore Orioles during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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In Japan, starting pitchers typically work just one day a week, with the best of the best taking the ball on Sundays. When he pitched there, Yankees righthander Hiroki Kuroda went by a familiar nickname. Fans knew him simply as "Sunday Kuroda.''

In the United States, he learned to take on a heavier workload, which he considered his biggest challenge. But he has never started on short rest in the major leagues.

That will change Sunday afternoon when Kuroda takes the ball against the Tigers in ALCS Game 2, only four days after starting ALDS Game 3 against the Orioles Wednesday night.

"This is probably the shortest rest that I have ever had in my baseball career,'' Kuroda said through a translator. "But at this point of the season, you know, we can't really be talking about anything but to win. So I'm just going to prepare myself to win this game, like I always have been throughout the season.''

Winning hasn't been an issue. In his first season with the Yankees, Kuroda set a career high in victories, going 16-11 with a a 3.32 ERA despite a lack of run support.

That trend showed up in his ALDS start. Kuroda allowed two runs in 81/3 innings but didn't factor in the decision. Raul IbaƱez took him off the hook with his tying homer in the ninth inning and then homered in the 12th to win it.

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Kuroda's performance helped sway Joe Girardi's decision to use the 37-year-old veteran on three days' rest.

"Sometimes you look into people's eyes . . . Their eyes also tell you a lot about how they are feeling and if they are ready to go,'' said Girardi, who will send out Kuroda to oppose Tigers righty Anibel Sanchez. "I love the way he threw the ball the last time. He didn't really have too many taxing innings in that game, so we feel good about him.''

Kuroda assumed he would follow Game 1 starter Andy Pettitte, just as he did in the ALDS. So when Girardi informed him Friday that he will start Sunday, he already had begun to get ready.

"I had already prepared myself to pitch for tomorrow, so there was no surprise there at all,'' he said. "What I'm trying to do right now is get rid of all of the fatigue, as much as possible, to prepare for this game.''

Historically, Kuroda has fared better when he has extra time to recover. He owns a 3.53 ERA in 73 starts on regular rest. That number drops to 3.32 when he's given one extra day and to 3.07 when he works with an extra two days' rest or more.

This season, Kuroda has made more starts with extra days' rest (18) than he has on regular rest (15).

Of course, extra time is not a luxury available to Kuroda, who joins Pettitte and CC Sabathia as Yankees pitchers Girardi has trusted enough to lean on even with short rest.

"If I'm going to start tomorrow, if that's going to be beneficial to the team, I'm glad to do it,'' Kuroda said. "I don't know if it is a compliment, but if the team decides that I should pitch that day, I'm grateful for the decision and prepare to pitch tomorrow.''

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