Hiroki Kuroda said he’s never met Yu Darvish. If there’s time, Kuroda said, he’ll try to talk to him tomorrow, but there will be no conversation today.
“We have to face each other,” Kuroda said. “So we’ll have nothing to talk about.”
Whatever buzz is building in Japan seemed the farthest thing from Kuroda’s mind yesterday as he spoke to two waves of reporters — first a dozen or so from Japan, then a dozen or so from the United States — about the seventh ever Major League meeting of two Japanese-born starting pitchers. Kuroda called Darvish “one of the greatest pitchers that Japan has produced,” and he seemed to genuinely respect the 25-year-old, but Kuroda’s focus seemed to be on the players around him.
“This is not a one-on-one game,” he said. “It’s the Rangers against the Yankees. I’m going to do as much as possible so that our team is going to win. … I try not to think about (the hype in Japan). I don’t want to make it any bigger than it is.”
Obviously there’s a language barrier between Kuroda and most American reporters. He understands enough English for brief conversations, but he hasn’t been with the Yankees very long, and it’s hard to have a definite sense of his personality. What I know is that he smiles easily, he never seems flustered or angry, and he’s said that his transition to pitching and living in the United States is an ongoing process.
“I don’t think I’m adjusted just yet,” he said yesterday. “I think I still have a lot to learn.”
Perhaps the disconnect is part of the adjustment. Maybe it’s easier to commit himself completely to this team and leave all of the distractions behind. Kuroda said that after Sunday’s rainout left him lined up to face Darvish head-to-head, he didn’t hear from a single Japanese friend or family member about the Darvish matchup. It seemed to be on his radar strictly because a handful of reporters asked about it.
So who does he expect fans in Japan to root for tonight?
“I really don’t know,” Kuroda said with a laugh. “I hope people will be rooting for the Yankees.”
Associated Press photo