We all get used to certain answers to certain questions, especially in a Yankees clubhouse where it’s assumed that everyone loves the pressure of a big game. Win-to-clinch on the last day of the season must be fun for everyone in there, right?
“To be honest with you, I never enjoyed playing baseball,” Hiroki Kuroda said. “I never enjoyed pitching, to be honest with you. Whether it’s a spring training game or a regular-season game, I like to put a certain amount of pressure on myself to be as normal as I can, even in that kind of atmosphere.”
There might have been something lost in the translation, but Kuroda’s response to the natural follow-up — why don’t you enjoy pitching? — left little doubt that the translation was correct, even if it’s meaning wasn’t so cut-and-dry.
“I’m not saying this because I’m with the Yankees,” Kuroda said. “This has been all throughout my professional career. There’s a lot of responsibility as a starting pitcher, so rather than enjoy myself out there, I feel that I must fulfill my responsibility and that’s my priority.”
Maybe Kuroda sees a game like this a little differently than his teammates, or maybe he’s simply a little more honest about the pressure to win in a big spot. Whatever Kuroda’s approach, the Yankees need him to be better than he was in September. They need him to be the guy who carried this rotation through much of the season, and obviously Kuroda is well aware that’s the case.
“At this point in the season, I can’t really make an adjustment,” he said. “I have to take everything that I have and that I’ve learned in this season with this team and with this league. How I pitch that day depends on how I feel that day. I just have to go out there and do my best.”
Associated Press photo