Hiroki Kuroda has 1,700 and one-third regular-season innings behind him with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. And he has 1,243 regular-season innings behind him with the Dodgers and the Yankees.
The right-hander is 39 now. He faded badly last year, going 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA over his final eight starts for the Yankees. He’s intent on a faster finish.
“You won’t know until you do it, until the end,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “But hopefully I will take last year as a lesson and see how it goes.”
The Yankees have been trying to prevent a repeat. Kuroda has gone past 100 pitches only seven times in 20 starts. Joe Girardi removed him after 99 pitches Sunday when he gave up just an unearned run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings in the 3-2 win over the Reds. He was on eight days’ rest thanks to the All-Star break.
“I think we’ve kind of taken that initiative in the first half,” Girardi said. “We haven’t run him over 100 pitches a whole lot this year. We’ve given him the extra day when he needs the extra day. … So we’ll do what we can. But the other thing is we’re fighting to get in the playoffs and we’re going to have to pitch him.”
Kuroda is 6-6 with a 3.88 ERA. He began the season as the oldest Yankees starter. He’s the only one of the original five not currently residing on the DL.
“It just tells you about his conditioning and how he prepares himself on a daily basis during the offseason,” Girardi said. “He’s done a really good job. And it’s probably partly genetic, too. He’s been blessed.”
Girardi is wary about pushing him too far.
“You can maybe push him a little bit more, but I still think you have to be cautious because it’s kind of like your bullpen,” Girardi said. “If it gets overworked and then all of a sudden they’re not throwing as well, people wonder why. Well, it’s because you overworked. So it’s a fine line that we walk.”
Photo by The Associated Press