Right-handed starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is in his second season with the Yankees. Kuroda’s main pitch is a low-90s miles-per-hour sinkerball, and he also mixes in four-seam fastballs, splitters and sliders.
Despite picking up the loss in the team’s 2-0 setback at the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night, the 38-year old Japanese hurler has pitched well so far this season.
Thus far in 2013, Kuroda leads Yankee starting pitchers with a 2.30 ERA and is tied with left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia for the team lead in wins with four—his record is 4-2 overall. Before being charged with the loss against the Rockies, Kuroda had won four straight decisions, and he hasn't surrendered more than three runs in any start this season. Arguably his most impressive performance came during an ESPN Sunday night game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 14. Kuroda pitched a complete game five-hit shutout that night, walking nobody and striking out five.
Kuroda began his career in his native Japan, pitching for the Central League’s Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 1997-2007. In 2008, Kuroda came to the United States to pitch for the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers, and he spent four seasons with them. He went just 9-10 in his first season with Los Angeles, but posted a respectable 3.73 ERA. Kuroda also pitched well in that year’s postseason, going 2-0 and surrendering only two runs in 12.1 innings pitched over two starts. (More after the jump…)
Over his next three seasons with the Dodgers, Kuroda pitched solidly and maintained an ERA below 4.00 each year. During that span, though, Los Angeles only qualified for the postseason in 2009, and Kuroda was ineffective in his sole playoff start. In game three of the NLCS, he was shelled for six runs in 1.1 innings, and the Dodgers lost 11-0.
Despite his general success with the Dodgers, when Kuroda signed with the Yankees for the 2012 season, he had plenty to prove. When pitchers move from the NL to the American League for the first time, they often struggle with the deeper AL lineups. Over the course of the season, Kuroda passed his test. After an inconsistent start to 2012, he finished the season with a 16-11 record and a 3.32 ERA. His 16 wins were tied for the team lead with RHP Phil Hughes. He also pitched well in the postseason, though he didn't pick up a victory. Kuroda gave up two runs in 8.1 innings in ALDS game three against the Baltimore Orioles and three runs over 7.2 innings in ALCS game two against the Detroit Tigers.
Kuroda has proven to be a solid starter with the Yankees. Continued quality pitching by him going forward will likely be a key factor as to whether or not the team contends for a postseason spot.