TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
SportsBaseballYankees

New Yankee Kuroda gets positive reviews

Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda throws in the

Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda throws in the bullpen at the team's spring training facility in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2012) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yes, Hiroki Kuroda invoked his no-trade clause at the non-waivers trade deadline last July, blocking a trade to the Yankees or any other interested team.

But no, he wanted to make clear, it didn't have anything to do with being afraid of the New York stage or the American League East.

"I was wearing a Dodgers uniform from the first day of spring training," Kuroda said through translator Kenji Nimura. "It was really hard for me to change my mind and change teams and win for some other team. I think that was the biggest thing for me to stay with the Dodgers last year because I wanted to be with the team I started with."

And when his contract expired after last season and the Dodgers showed little interest in re-signing him, Kuroda, 37, was thrilled that the Yankees remained interested in him.

"I was just so flattered and honored to get an offer from such a great team as the Yankees," he said. "It's one of the prominent teams worldwide in any sport and it's obviously a team that always wins, and I wanted to have a chance to win a championship."

Kuroda brings an impressive resume across the country. He was 41-46, but with a 3.45 ERA, in four seasons with the Dodgers, his only team since he came over from Japan in 2008. Last season Kuroda posted the lowest ERA of his four seasons, 3.07, but received little offensive support as he went 13-16.

Whether his stuff will translate to similar success in the American League has been a popular question since the Yankees signed him. The general feeling among scouts is that his ERA is likely to tick upward a notch or two, but nothing drastic.

"He definitely still has a lot of talent left in that arm," one said Thursday. "Velocity and movement is still there."

The scout added: "[He's] a professional who knows what he's doing and can throw strikes."

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Kuroda's repertoire will be just fine in the American League.

"If you get hitters out, you get hitters out," Rothschild said. "If you get overwhelmed by stuff, it's going to affect you, but he's not a type of person who does that. And I don't concern myself with that . I really concentrate on how we're going to get the hitters out that we're going to face, and that's it . . . He can pitch. He's got good movement on his fastball, he's got a good slider. Good split, and he also throws a changeup and a curveball. So he's got some weapons."

They are weapons Russell Martin saw for three seasons -- 2008-10 -- when he and Kuroda were Dodgers teammates.

"He's a veteran guy, he'll adapt," Martin said of Kuroda's transition to a new league. "He's a great teammate and a great guy. A competitor. When he's healthy, he's tremendous."

Kuroda, who had a 3.76 ERA in 60 games with Martin behind the plate, said his transition will be helped by pitching to someone so familiar.

"He knows me, not just my pitches but my personality," Kuroda said. "So it's going to be a really big help."

Martin said Kuroda won't need much. "On his good days, he reaches up to 95 [mph] with good movement on his fastball, good two-seam sinking action," he said. "He's got a cutter he uses, a curveball he uses. Not necessarily a strikeout curveball, but he can throw it for strikes. He's got a slider. His split is pretty much his strikeout pitch, with his fastball. He's got good command. You'll see, he's pretty good."

New York Sports