Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Hiroki Kuroda (Page 2 of 4)

Remembering 2011: Hiroki Kuroda


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda (24)

The setup: Amid much speculation that he might sign elsewhere, namely Japan, Kuroda returned to the Dodgers on a one-year contract he signed in November for $12 million, one-third of which was deferred. He was coming off his best of three seasons as a Dodgers: a 3.39 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

The closeup: Despite turning 36 in February, Kuroda topped himself yet again, turning in his best ERA as a Dodger (3.07, ninth in the National League) in a career-high 32 starts and 202 innings with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At the start of July, it was Kuroda, not Clayton Kershaw, who was leading the Dodgers in ERA.

Kuroda was also one of many symbols of the Dodgers’ woebegone first four months: At the end of July, even as he was cruising with a 3.11 ERA, Kuroda had a 6-13 won-lost record and was threatening to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history. But after choosing to stay with the Dodgers rather than be traded to a contender, he finished the year winning seven of his final 10 decisions (with a 3.00 ERA).

Kuroda’s 16 losses were still the most by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1987, but only Kevin Brown has ever had a better adjusted ERA for a season in Los Angeles at the age of at least 36. In exactly 25 percent of his starts, Kuroda pitched shutout ball for at least six innings, and his 22 quality starts were tied for 11th in the NL. And he was just a lot of fun to have on the team.

Coming attractions: No one’s expecting Kuroda to sign anywhere on this continent except Los Angeles for 2012, but no one’s saying which continent he’ll choose. Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Dodgers might not have an answer until after free agency begins. If Kuroda returns, it might be asking too much to hope he would duplicate his 2010 or 2011 performances, but expecting that he would be a useful (not to mention joyful to watch) member of the starting rotation doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Japanese pitcher could be in Dodgers’ future, with or without Kuroda

Might Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement on the Dodgers also come from Japan? From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Assistant general manager Logan White was in Japan earlier this week to scout Tsuyoshi Wada, a left-handed starter for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific League, a source close to the team confirmed on Wednesday.

However, the Dodgers’ interest in Wada, who will be eligible for free agency this winter and thus won’t require a posting fee before a major league team can sign him, is only preliminary.

Wada, 30, entered this season with a 41-31 record and a 3.30 ERA in four seasons with the Hawks, during which he made 88 starts and two relief appearances. This year, he is 13-5 and ranks third in the Pacific League with a 1.70 ERA. …

Kuroda hasn’t announced his decision for 2012, but Dylan Hernandez of the Times offered a clue about the righthander’s leanings.

… Hiroki Kuroda received a hug from Clayton Kershaw. He was tapped on the shoulder by Josh Lindblom, who told him, “See you next year.”

Kuroda’s eyes were red.

Kuroda denied that he was fighting back tears because he had already decided this would be his last day with the Dodgers. He will be a free agent this winter. …

… But Kuroda was also a free agent at the end of last season and he wasn’t nearly as emotional then.

Near the end of the Dodgers’ team meeting Monday, Kershaw stood up and announced he had something to say.

He said he wanted Kuroda to return next season.

“He knows how we feel,” Kershaw said. “We love him here. If he decides to go back to Japan, we understand. That’s his home. He will be a tough person and a tough player to replace, if he decides to go home to Japan.” …

Did Hiroki Kuroda decide the AL wild card?

When Hiroki Kuroda chose not to waive his no-trade clause at the end of July, it left one of his leading suitors, the Boston Red Sox, scrambling.

The Red Sox ended up picking up Erik Bedard from Seattle in the three-team, seven-player deal that sent Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife to Los Angeles and Trayvon Robinson to Seattle. And then … well, let Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tell the story.

Tonight’s forecast: Gloom.

And that’s just the weather (scattered thundershowers, 60 percent chance of rain).

It isn’t much better for the Red Sox, who are left with no choice Tuesday but to rely on Erik Bedard, a sore-legged pitcher whose appetite for the big stage has been openly questioned by a former employer, to keep them alive for a playoff spot that should never have been in jeopardy. …

Bedard came back from a 16-day absence because of a strained lat and sore knee last week against the Orioles and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, needing a staggering 51 pitches to record those two outs in the third. The Red Sox will need much more from him Tuesday night.

Boston has surrendered a 10-game lead in the American League wild card race, thanks in large part to a 7.26 ERA for their starting pitchers in September, Edes notes.

Kuroda has a 3.29 ERA since the trade deadline, though it’s 4.18 in a September that has seen him have neck problems. Perhaps going to Boston wouldn’t have helped, but I’m guessing the Red Sox would be happy to have him pitching on the East Coast tonight instead of for the Dodgers in Arizona.

* * *

  • I’m a little concerned with the talk that Don Mattingly might have Matt Kemp bat leadoff to increase his chances (rather slightly, I’d say) of reaching 40 homers and 40 steals. It could spread the impression for potential Most Valuable Player voters that Kemp’s numbers were more of a gimmick in games that weren’t serious. Probably doesn’t matter much either way, but I’d leave Kemp at No. 3 and take his chances there.
  • Meanwhile, when they talk about a player’s body in “Moneyball,” I don’t think they mean this.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot asks if Kemp is having the greatest season ever by a Los Angeles Dodger position player.

    … According to Baseball-Reference WAR, his season ranks only behind Adrian Beltre’s 48-homer season in 2004, and just ahead of Mike Piazza’s 1997. In fact, forget limiting it to just Los Angeles. The only Brooklyn Dodger seasons that rate higher are two from Jackie Robinson, in 1949 and 1951.

  • Today is the 75th anniversary of longtime Dodger manager Walter Alston’s one and only at-bat in the majors, writes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times.

    … on Sept. 27, 1936, he was just a young 24-year-old hoping to get his shot. He was a bit old for a prospect because he’d gone to college and only went pro after graduating.

    In the minors Alston showed promise, hitting over .300 with power in the St. Louis farm system, but there was a big problem. He played first base for a team that already had Johnny Mize. Four times Alston would lead his league in homers, but there was no place for him in the majors. And the more the years went by, the less the aging Alston seemed like a prospect. …

  • Russ Mitchell is having season-ending wrist surgery today, the Dodgers said. He is expected to play winter ball.
  • A tight hamstring is expected to keep Rafael Furcal on the sidelines for the final two games of the Cardinals’ playoff push.

Bing bang boom: Nationals drum out Kuroda, Dodgers

Hiroki Kuroda, who had never allowed more than two home runs in a game in his major-league career, somehow served up three in the first inning today in Washington and four total in the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss to the Nationals.

Leadoff hitter Ian Desmond homered on Kuroda’s fourth pitch, and after Rick Ankiel singled, Ryan Zimmerman flied deep to left, setting the stage for back-to-back jacks by Michael Morse and Jayson Werth.

Morse later hit another home run in the sixth inning off Kuroda, who struck out nine and walked none (Dodger starting pitchers have 21 strikeouts since their last walk) but ended up allowing six extra-base hits.

Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp hit consecutive doubles in the first inning for the Dodgers for a 1-0 lead, but that was it for the Los Angeles scoring until the ninth. Today’s spotlight player, A.J. Ellis, had a single and a double, coming around to score after the latter with two out in the ninth on Justin Sellers’ double.

More from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.:

… Per the Prime Ticket broadcast, the last time the Dodgers allowed three home runs in the first inning was June 25, 1988 in Cincinnati against the Reds. Fernando Valenzuela was pulled with two outs in the opening frame after allowing four runs on those three taters, hit by Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, and Paul O’Neill. The Dodgers did come back to win that game, 6-4.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers could not repeat that comeback performance on Monday.

According to MLB Gameday, Kuroda threw six sliders in the first inning. Two were hit out of the park, two more were hit for singles, and two were out of the strike zone. Kuroda was able to settle down after that shaky first, retiring 13 of 14 batters at one point. Between the second and fifth innings he threw only five sliders, and all were out of the strike zone.

Kuroda tried another slider in the sixth inning, and Morse took him deep for his second home run of the game. In his six innings of work, Kuroda threw 13 total sliders. Eight were called balls, three were deposited in the seats, and two more were hit for singles. It’s safe to say Kuroda didn’t have command of that pitch on Labor Day.

The last Dodgers pitcher to allow four home runs in a game was D.J. Houlton on August 29, 2005. In fact, in the last 34 years only 14 Dodgers have allowed four circuit clouts in one contest, including Kuroda today. …

People who need people

A quick reminder of what’s at stake for Hiroki Kuroda in his bid to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com):

Losses in a season
Record:
18, by Claude Osteen (1968) and Don Sutton (1969)
Kuroda: 14

Lowest winning percentage in a season
Minimum 14 decisions:
Rick Honeycutt, .143 (2-12) in 1987
Minimum 15 decisions:
Hideo Nomo, .257 (4-11) in 2004
Minimum 22 decisions: Bill Singer, .273 (6-16) in 1972
Kuroda: .333 (7-14)

Lowest winning percentage with ERA below 3.00
Record:
Mike Morgan, .421 (8-11, 2.53 ERA)
Kuroda: .333 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)

Top ERA+ (adjusted ERA) with winning percentage of .333 or lower
Record:
Tom Candiotti, 109 (7-14, 3.50 ERA)
Kuroda: 122 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)

A quick word about Kuroda and no-trade clauses

Some online are questioning why Ned Colletti gave Hiroki Kuroda a no-trade clause. The answer is that it has value, just like money. Without the clause, Kuroda would have been much less likely to stay with Los Angeles as opposed to going elsewhere, such as back to Japan.

It’s not clear at all that Kuroda would have taken a higher salary in exchange for not having a no-trade clause, but even if he had, what you then end up doing is paying him even more than he is worth, based on what at the start of the season was a relatively unlikely scenario of the Dodgers’ wanting to trade him. Plus, the added salary itself be an added impediment to getting a trade done.

So no, the Dodgers don’t end up getting X players in exchange for Kuroda, and on some level, as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness argues, that’s certainly a shame. But what they did get was four months and counting of a quality pitcher that they otherwise might not have had. Back in the offseason, when they were still trying to win in 2011, that’s a good deal.

Kuroda says he’s staying

According to Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, Hiroki Kuroda has told Ned Colletti he prefers to stay in Los Angeles and is not going to waive his no-trade clause.

It’s debatable what the Dodgers might have gained from trading Kuroda, but it’s hard not to be more than a little happy with someone who, amid all that has happened with the Dodgers this year, actually wants to be here in this city and/or with this team.

Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more …

… “I told Ned through my agent (Steve Hilliard) that I will be wearing this uniform throughout the season,” Kuroda said, with Kenji Nimura interpreting. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Kuroda said Colletti hadn’t submitted any specific trades to any teams for his approval.

“Through my agent, I had heard a lot of things about some teams having interest in me,” Kuroda said. “Last year, after thinking about it a lot, I decided to play for the Dodgers for one year, and that is still my plan.”

Kuroda cited affection for, and loyalty to, his teammates as the reason for his decision.

“A key factor in me staying here is that it’s really important for me to play with the same guys I started with,” Kuroda said. …

… Kuroda could choose to return to Japan after the season, when he again will be a free agent, but he said he hasn’t made that decision yet.

“I haven’t really thought about next year at all,” he said. “Like I always say, it’s one game at a time, and I’m concentrating on my next start.”

Hiroki Kuroda’s streaking … but probably not to the All-Star Game

Friday, Hiroki Kuroda took over the Dodger lead in ERA at 2.90, moving ahead of a pitcher most assume will make the National League All-Star team, Clayton Kershaw. In his past six starts, Kuroda has a 1.72 ERA, and opponents are batting .191 against him. So has Kuroda pitched his way into All-Star consideration?

In 2010, there were eight starting pitchers on the NL roster until injured Yovani Gallardo of Milwaukee was replaced by San Diego reliever Heath Bell. In 2009, there were also eight starting pitchers, with Pittsburgh’s Zach Duke replacing San Francisco’s Matt Cain. So top-eight is the neighborhood you want to be in, if not even better.

Here’s where Kershaw and Kuroda currently rank in certain categories that might matter to the various selectors for the NL, which is making its All-Star roster announcement Sunday:

ERA: Kuroda ninth, Kershaw 10th
Strikeouts: Kershaw first, Kuroda 27th
Innings: Kershaw third (tie), Kuroda 16th (tie)
Wins: Kershaw ninth (tie), Kuroda 27th (tie)
WHIP: Kershaw third, Kuroda 20th
Complete games: Kershaw third, Kuroda has none
Shutouts: Kershaw second (tie), Kuroda has none
Quality starts: Kershaw seventh (tie), Kuroda 17th (tie)
Strikeout/walk ratio: Kershaw fourth, Kuroda 25th
Strikeouts per nine innings: Kershaw first, Kuroda 32nd
Fielding-independent ERA: Kershaw third, Kuroda 34th
Wins Above Replacement: Kershaw fourth, Kuroda 36th
Opponents OPS: Kershaw second, Kuroda 29th
Losses: Kuroda first (tie), Kershaw 75th (tie)

As you can see, outside of ERA, Kuroda’s case is very slim. Now, I wouldn’t completely rule out Kuroda sneaking onto a roster at the last minute, the way Hong-Chih Kuo and Rafael Furcal did a year ago, if a need for a substitute player arises. ERA might be the pitching category that has the most importance for All-Star selectors, plus Kuroda seems to be a popular player in baseball and one who might be in his last year pitching Stateside. But, it’s a tough year to pitch your way into the elite.

No doubt, many Dodger fans would be just as happy to see Kuroda get the All-Star break to rest.

* * *

Could the 37-46 Dodgers win nine games in a row? Perhaps they’ll find some odd encouragement in the play of their Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, where the once 42-30 Isotopes have lost nine in a row.

Dee Gordon steals second, (third), home and the show


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesRoadrunner escapes again.

On a night that featured Tony Gwynn Jr. reaching base six times and Aaron Miles five, and Hiroki Kuroda pitching seven shutout innings, the spotlight was swiped by Dee Gordon, who stole second and home in the seventh inning and should have been credited with a steal of third in the same frame as well, if not for an arcane official scoring decision. Dodgers 5, Angels 0.

With Rafael Furcal due to return to the majors Sunday, Gordon, who also made a fantastic catch in the ninth, might be headed back to Albuquerque, though at this point that looks more like a career detour than a final destination.

Hiroki Kuroda’s Master Class


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of nine starts this season.

It’s hard to feel too low when you’ve got Hiroki Kuroda on your side. Lovely and amazing.

The 36-year-old turned in his second straight outing of shutout ball, going 7 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 3-0 victory over Milwaukee, and now has an ERA of 2.80 that is 10th in the National League, a hair behind Clayton Kershaw’s 2.75.

Kuroda gave up eight baserunners – six of them reaching scoring position, thanks in part to his first career balk – but he got himself out of every jam in the first seven innings, thanks in part to two big catches by Matt Kemp.

Kemp also hit a two-run homer in the first inning after a walk to Andre Ethier, and the score held until an RBI double for an insurance run in the eighth by Jerry Sands, driving in Juan Uribe, who went 2 for 3 with a walk.

Kenley Jansen scared the pants off the faithful by entering the game in the top of the eighth with a runner on and throwing seven straight balls, but Casey McGehee fouled out. Matt Guerrier then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save as a Dodger. Why was Guerrier closing the ninth instead of Vicente Padilla? The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the office of Dodger trainer Stan Conte.

To recap the last four Dodger victories:

May 17 – Dodgers 3, Brewers 0 – Vicente Padilla unavailable
May 13 – Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 3 – Zach Lee MRI revealed
May 11 – Dodgers 2, Pirates 0 – Hong-Chih Kuo to the disabled list
May 10 – Dodgers 10, Pirates 3 – Blake Hawksworth hurts groin

Kuroda glides as Dodgers win nightcap


Lenny Ignelzi/APAn elbow salute to Andre Ethier’s first homer of the year.

The smoothest Dodger victory of the season, 4-0 over the Padres, had a rough-and-tumble ending.

On a night that the Dodgers were concerned enough about their bullpen to hold Chad Billingsley in reserve, Hiroki Kuroda, a good man and true, took a one-hitter into the seventh inning (last year, you’ll recall, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Phillies) and came within one out of a shutout. He threw 117 pitches, the most by a National League pitcher in this young season.

Kuroda gave up his fifth and sixth hits with two out in the ninth, and Jonathan Broxton came in to try to save his second game of the day and fifth of five Dodger victories this season. Broxton had Chris Denorfia down 1-2 in the count before walking him, bringing up the tying run in Cameron Maybin.

Maybin hit a slow roller inside of third base. As he went for the ball, Casey Blake and Chase Headley collided, sending both players tumbling. Umpire Ed Hickox called interference, and just like that, the game was over. Blake would have had a tough play to get Maybin at first base.

Tonight’s twin victories didn’t do all that much to alleviate concerns about the Dodger offense, but they have done wonders for some Dodger batting averages and on-base percentages. Check out these numbers from tonight’s starting lineup:

.484/.568 Matt Kemp
.400/.478 Jamey Carroll
.357/.500 Casey Blake
.353/.436 Andre Ethier
.353/.353 Tony Gwynn Jr.
.250/.500 A.J. Ellis
.147/.189 James Loney
.107/.138 Juan Uribe
.143/.143 Hiroki Kuroda

Like I said – some.

Kemp, Carroll and Ethier (who hit his first home run of 2011) each had three hits; Gwynn added two. Kemp and Gwynn also combined to steal five bases, and Kemp had an outfield assist. Kuroda, who started last season 0 for 45, got his first hit of this season in his second game.

Loney did walk twice, and he continues to shine on defense. Uribe, meanwhile, is off to a 3 for 28 start with no walks.

Concerns from Saito and Kuroda

Former Dodger reliever Takashi Saito has left Spring Training with the Milwaukee Brewers in an effort to try to reach his parents, whom he has not been able to contact since the Japan quake struck, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com also reports that Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has not reached his brother but believes him to be okay, but that Kuroda is concerned about such friends and former teammates as Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura.

At Inside the Dodgers, Josh Rawitch passes along his own concerns and best wishes.

* * *

Dodgers at A’s, 12:05 p.m.

Dodgers held to one run for third time in first week

Norm Hall/Getty ImagesHiroki and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcatch

Reds 3, Dodgers 1

Norm Hall/Getty ImagesBrandon Phillips stands on his head until his ears are turning Red.

Highlights:

  • Jerry Sands had two singles and an RBI, making him 3 for 7 in Spring Training. Let the (ir)rational exuberance begin!
  • Ivan De Jesus Jr. had a single and is also 3 for 7.
  • Rubby De La Rosa struck out three of the six batters he faced and picked off the only one who reached base, though none of the six were Reds regulars.
  • I learned the proper way to pronounce “Rubby,” and it doesn’t rhyme with “tubby.”

Lowlights:

  • After stranding three runners in his first two innings, starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was touched for three more hits and two runs in the third. “I didn’t have all my pitches tonight,” Kuroda told The Associated Press. “My breaking ball wasn’t there.”
  • The first four hitters in the Dodger lineup – Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Juan Uribe and Jay Gibbons – went 0 for 11 with a walk.
  • Batting as the tying run in the eighth and ninth innings, Justin Sellers and JD Closser each hit into double plays.
  • The Dodgers are averaging 3.1 runs per game, worst in the Cactus League.

Sidelights:

  • On a Thursday in early March, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this: Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes about how similar Kenley Jansen is to Mariano Rivera.
  • The Dodgers offered a minor-league contract to a player from their annual all-comers tryout: Randy Keisler, a 35-year-old lefty who last pitched in the majors in 2007. He has a 6.63 ERA in 150 2/3 career innings, and his only 2010 action was seven starts in the Mexican League with a 3.98 ERA.
  • De La Rosa and Luis Vasquez won the Dodgers’ “American Idol”-like singing contest, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Despite a career .341 on-base percentage in the majors, ex-Dodger Willy Aybar, who turns 28 next week, hasn’t even signed a minor-league contract this spring, notes MLB Trade Rumors.
  • Juan Castro did not hit a three-run homer.

Now batting, Don Mattingly


Morry Gash/APDon Mattingly: Five-tool manager?

The most fun and interesting detail to come out of Camelback Ranch today was the tidbit that Dodger manager Don Mattingly will stand in the batters box during bullpen sessions for his pitchers. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

In Mattingly’s first spring as the team’s manager, he already has employed at least one unconventional tactic. Often, when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, Mattingly will grab a bat, step into the left-handed batter’s box and get into the familiar stance he employed for so many years as a six-time All-Star first baseman for the New York Yankees.

“It gives me a better look at a guy’s stuff,” Mattingly said. “[By standing there], I can tell if what a guy is throwing can get somebody out or it can’t.”

Mattingly conceded that some of his pitchers — especially those who will spend the spring fighting for a roster spot — might be a bit unnerved by firing a baseball in the general direction of the boss’s body. In deference to that, he said he steps out of the box when it comes time for a pitcher to throw to the inside part of the plate.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more.

… Mattingly’s participation in the bullpen sessions had the players talking.

“First time I ever saw that,” said catcher Dioner Navarro. “Caught me off guard. I did a double take. You know, you don’t want to drill him. But you can see he wants to be involved in everything, to know everything. It’s like he’s back to being a player. He knows what it takes. It brings confidence to the team to see that. It’s exciting.”

Mattingly, 49, said he no longer gets the urge to actually hit, having retired after the 1995 season. And he only steps in to his natural left-handed side, because he said he might not know how to get out of the way from the right-hander’s box.

Among the pitchers he “faced” Saturday were veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla. Mattingly said he’d think twice if he saw a pitcher was having control problems.

“Managers do that in Japan and it’s considered an honor,” said Kuroda. “They do it for top young prospects and established veterans. And in the middle of Spring Training you have a session when you throw 200 to 300 pitches to establish endurance, and the manager steps in then, so you don’t slack off.” …

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles DodgersMatt Kemp works out at Camelback Ranch today.

Davey Lopes baserunning tutorials are in full swing. From Jackson:

… Lopes has been giving these tutorials every morning this spring, and after a few minutes on Saturday, (Matt) Kemp was joined by outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., shortstop Rafael Furcal, highly touted prospects Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson and non-roster outfielder Trent Oeltjen. Not one of those players is required to be in camp until Monday, but several of the team’s position players chose to report early.

Lopes’ group spent the entire session taking leads off first, crouching and breaking toward second base, though they weren’t running at anything close to full speed and they stopped about halfway there.

“Right now, I’m just trying to get an idea of what they do and what they attempt to do and see if there is something we can try to adjust to make it a little better fit for them,” Lopes said. “Basically, we’re just breaking down their movements.” …

* * *

Hiroki Kuroda is working on adding a curveball to his repertoire. Dylan Hernandez of the Times has more:

Last spring, Kuroda tried to add a changeup to his arsenal, but the project was abandoned early in camp. Kuroda said he’s more optimistic about his curveball.

“I’ll throw it during the exhibition season and see how it feels,” he said.

Kuroda said he has received tips from Clayton Kershaw, but that he learned the curveball grip over the winter by watching videos.

* * *

Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports writes about the importance to Rafael Furcal of the fire truck recently donated to his hometown in the Dominican Republic:

“I’ll sleep better knowing people will be safe,” Furcal said. “I’m the only guy who made it. It’s like a responsibility to me.”

His love of firefighting was noticed by Dodgers public relations director Josh Rawitch, who mentioned it to general manager Ned Colletti during Furcal’s contract negotiations after the 2008 season. Colletti included the truck in discussions with Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Furcal was torn between signing with the Braves – the team that first signed him in 1996 and for whom he played his first six years in the majors – or returning to the Dodgers.

The fire truck was the ideal perk. It spoke to something close to his heart. And it convinced him the Dodgers cared about him as a person, and about his hometown.


* * *

Farewell, Ollie Matson.

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Page 2 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén