December 19, 2014

Kuroda’s Back!

 In a move most Dodger fans never saw coming, the club and Hiroki Kuroda have reached agreement on a one-year, $12 million contract for the 2011 season.

How cool is this news?  Most people, including myself, assumed Kuroda would be returning to pitch in his native Japan in 2011.  But now, with the return of starter Ted Lilly, the Dodgers have a formidable starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Lilly and Kuroda.  The fifth starter will most likely come from within the Dodgers system, but GM Ned Colletti is also well-known for bringing in a wide selection of veteran arms to Spring Training as non-roster invitees as he tries to capture magic in a bottle.

Other than his numbers (11-13 with a 3.39 ERA over 196 1/3 innings), one of the things that really excites me about the Kuroda deal is that it’s only for one year.  At 35 and arguably one of the best free agent pitchers available in a limited market, Kuroda could have easily obtained a two or possibly three-year deal from a major league club.  But it was his strong comfort level with the Dodgers organization and his desire to eventually to Japan to pitch that led him to sign a one-year deal with LA.  For that, all Dodger fans should be very thankful, as a multi-year contract brings a lot of obvious risk for a pitcher who turns 36 in February.

It’s also worth noting that $4 million of Kuroda’s salary (technically this portion is considered a signing bonus) is deferred to 2012 and 2013.  I really don’t see this as a problem…this is the model the Dodgers have chosen to use when paying players, and if it can be managed in a fiscally responsible way so as to field the most competitive team now while also not bankrupting the team in the future, then I’m fine with it.  Jon Weisman has some additional thoughts on the Dodgers’ salary defferment program that are worth checking out.

“As we continue our commitment to winning, Hiroki Kuroda will play a significant role in our rotation, which is a very important part of our club,” said Colletti in a Dodgers press release. “He has had success in the regular season as well as the postseason and we look forward to having him back in a Dodger uniform in 2011. With four starters returning from last year, we feel very good about our rotation and we will continue to look for ways to improve the staff.”

Now that the starting rotation is set, Colletti has to turn his attention to the noticeable power gap on this team.  While Dodger fans are definitely excited about the Kuroda and Lilly signings, they’re looking for Colletti & Co. to bring in a big bat, either in left field (the logical destination), first base (as a potential replacement for James Loney) or in a platoon option at third base with Casey Blake.  Kemp and Ethier are still developing as power hitters, and we all saw how much better Ethier was when he was protected by Manny Ramirez’s bat in late-2008 and 2009.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

Post-Game Comments from Torre, Martin, Broxton, Kuroda (June 8)

Joe Torre:

On the game as a whole:

“It was a classic.  That’s post-season baseball right there.  Great pitching on both sides.  Carpenter did an amazing job at getting out of jams.  They made plays.  Kuroda, that’s as good as you want to see him right there.  It was a great game.  If they had beaten us, I’d still have to say it was a great game, just the way things played out.”

On Kuroda:

“It looks like he was very aggressive.  It looked like he was pretty much doing what he wanted to.  It looked like the ball was really alive, movement wise, and he was locating it.  I think that he had as good of command as he’s had since early in the season.”

On Ethier:

“It is just a matter of timing for me.  You saw him hit that ball the other way with two strikes from the left-hander, you know he is back and comfortable.”

On Manny:

“It looked like he tried to pull.  He was hitting the ball on the ground.  Stayed inside the ball that last time and hit the ball hard to right field.”

Hiroki Kuroda (through his interpreter):

On his pitching overall:

“Most of my key pitches were moving. The sinker, slider and also splitter…were all good today.”

On facing Chris Carpenter:

“Before the game I didn’t really have the time to think about the other pitcher.  I just was worried about how I was going to pitch today and how to get outs on other hitters.”

Russell Martin:

On Kuroda:

“His command was great today.  Good velocity on his fastball and good movement on it too.  His two-seamer was working well for him.  He really had all his pitches tonight: his two-seamer, his slider working well, his splitty as well and also using his cutter.

From the first inning, he was throwing 95 and getting that good sink.  Just with that pitch alone, he can get away with just having that pitch.  Today’s the day where he had everything. So you know when you have all those weapons that you can use, that there’s a lot of different things you can use to get the hitters off balance.

On hearing that the surgery for the little girl who fractured her skull during batting practice on Monday was going to be ok:

“Earlier today, I heard the news, and definitely felt a bit better. It definitely was on my mind yesterday, the whole day, and it was good to hear the good news.”

On playing 0-0 games:

“It means that you’re doing things well, playing good defense and pitching well.  The hitting part, you’ve got an ace on the other side.  You get a win against him, you’re happy, no matter how you get it.”

On Chris Carpenter:

“He had his good stuff today.  Good curveball, command.  Not really leaving anything over the middle of the plate.  Every time you’re up there, it’s a battle against him.”

On Manny’s big hit:

“I don’t know how he hit that ball – it seems like he got jammed a little bit.  That’s a good sign when he’s able to stay inside the ball like that and drive it the other way.  That’s when he’s at his best, so it’s good to see that.”

On Broxton’s 11 pitch battle with Pujols:

“When you get in those situations, the great hitters just get even better.  And you could tell right there, he was fighting off some really good pitches.  Good thing we had one of the best closers in the game out there.  That’s what Pujols does, he’ll just wear you out until you make a mistake and then capitalize on that, but fortunately Broxton just came through, kept making good pitches.”

Jonathan Broxton:

On the ninth inning:

The heart of the order coming up.  I just had to go out there and make pitches…I did.”

On his battle with Pujols:

“I was just out there trying to go pitch for pitch…trying to see what he’s doing with the ball.  He kept fouling off some good pitches.  I finally just had to bury one.”

“It felt like it was a long time.  I had to keep going with good pitches and good location.  I couldn’t make a mistake.”

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010 report from Chavez Ravine

Thanks to tickets provided by a co-worker, aka Emi, I had the opportunity to catch Saturday night’s Dodgers/Marlins game from a great position – field level, first base side and about 10 rows up from the visitor’s dugout…

…it was a great position to watch another great celebration by the “walk off wonders” aka the 2009 Dodgers…

For most of the game, my attention was directed toward to specific players – Hiroki Kuroda who is on my fantasy baseball team and Manny Ramirez (who isn’t?)…Kuroda turned in a great game for me with 9 strikeouts and only 2 earned runs in 6 innings…not bad considering his recent “not-so-great” outings…Manny did me some good with a single in 5 trips to the plate.

The greatest part of the game, of course, was the bottom of the 9th…Juan Pierre led off the inning, pinch hitting for Broxton who pitched a scoreless 9th to get is 7th victory against zero defeats!…anyway, I told my friend that all I wanted was for someone to get on base so Manny had a chance to win it for us…

Pierre lined out to center…Furcal had a perfect bunt up the first base line that went for a single…Hudson then followed with a sharp line drive single to left field which setup possible hero #1 – Manny Ramirez…

At this point, the fans were on their feet for the rest of the game…Manny struck out much to the chagrin of the crowd, but it setup the situation for possible hero #2 – Andre Ethier…

Ethier, our walk off hero so far this season, drew a walk…this setup the situation for possible hero #3 – Casey Blake…

…bases loaded…2 out…bottom of the 9th…possible game winning situation…this is what you dream about as a kid, right?

Of course, that dream ends with a home run, but as I told my friend, all we need is a lousy single (to take the words out of Rex Hudler’s mouth)…

0-2 count…not looking good…

…2 balls later, things were looking a little better…Marlins pitcher Luis Ayala paced around the mound…2 more balls and he loses the game…he had to throw a strike…

On the 2-2 pitch, Casey made contact and from where I was sitting, I had a great view of something great – the ball coming down and landing on the GRASS between 3 Marlins fielders…

As I like to tell my water polo players, sometimes it’s better to have placement than power on shots and Casey’s certainly was placed perfectly…


The dog pile on Casey Blake after his walk off single against the Marlins on July 25th.

The dog pile on Casey Blake after his walk off single against the Marlins on July 25th.

Scoreboard - Dodgers-Marlins on July 25th

How Sweet It Is!

Dodgers hurler Hiroki Kuroda, seen here, of Japan out-pitched ...

Ok, it’s only one game, but you gotta love today’s 4-1 victory over the Padres.  Kuroda looked sharp and Loney and Kemp proivided the power the team needed.  Sure, Kuroda got in a bit of a pickle in the sixth, but Cory Wade came through in the clutch getting two big outs with the bases stacked.  That same bullpen pitched 3 1/3 of great baseball, allowing no runs to score.  And to top it off, Broxton made quick work of the Pad’s in the ninth with a 1, 2, 3 inning.

I just wish I could have watched the game, but that think called a job keeps getting in the way of my Dodger games.

Let’s start game 2!

Kuroda Sidelined with Tendonitis – Park to Start Saturday

Hiroki Kuroda’s MRI revealed tendonitis in his right shoulder, resulting in the pitcher being scratched from his Saturday night start against the Indians. Kuroda’s injury means Chan Ho Park gets the nod for Saturday night, following up Eric Stults who will pitch in place of the injured Brad Penny on Friday.

The Dodgers have not said whether Kuroda will end up on the 15-day DL at this point – they could make it retroactive to June 13th, thus minimizing the time he misses on the roster if the injury is minor. However, Torre and Colletti seem determined to use releiver to manage Kuroda’s absence at this point.

At least Derek Lowe and the Dodger bats seem to be performing (albeit against the lowly Cincinnati Reds) – the boys in blue scored six runs on nine hits while Lowe went 5 1/3 innings with only one run, three hits, two walks and six strikeouts on the board.

Maybe there is hope…