Kuroda focused more on process than results
Right-hander has adjustments in mind after first poor outing of spring
TAMPA, Fla. -- For much of the 2013 season, veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda was the Yankees' best starting pitcher. For much of the 2014 Grapefruit League campaign, he might have been the most overlooked.
Now, it's natural that Masahiro Tanaka is getting a lot of attention after signing a seven-year, $155 million deal to leave Japan. And it makes sense that close attention is being paid to CC Sabathia, the erstwhile ace who slumped last season. But Kuroda is a compelling storyline as well.
After beating the Angels on Aug. 12 last season, Kuroda was 11-7 with a 2.33 ERA. In his last eight starts, he was 0-6, 6.56 ERA.
So it was also natural that manager Joe Girardi and Kuroda would be asked if what happened Wednesday -- six earned runs on 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings of what ended up as a 7-7 tie against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field -- might be a continuation of those problems.
"I think he's going to have another good year for us," Girardi said. "Because the arm speed is there and everything is there. And here's a guy who been around a long time, so I don't make too much of Spring Training.
"He was off with his offspeed stuff, which is not really that unusual this time of year. That's what they're trying to find. They're trying to find a feel. His offspeed stuff just wasn't sharp, and that's why he got hit."
The 39-year-old also appeared unconcerned.
"I had a hard time making good pitches, so that led to bad results. Mechanically, I was inconsistent. I was rushing a little bit, and the hitters took advantage," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "When the stuff is good, I get a lot of groundouts. But in this game, the location wasn't there. I think I was too much up in the zone, especially with my breaking balls.
"To prepare for my next outing, I have to make an adjustment -- especially with my slider, which is not sharp at this time. At this point of Spring Training, it's not easy to be 100 percent every time. When the season comes, there will be days like this. So I need to make sure I'm on top of everything."
Kuroda's next start will be Monday against the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Asked specifically if he was worried that Wednesday's results might be a carryover from 2013, Kuroda shook his head.
"I haven't thought about that," he said. "I think the velocity is pretty good. It's just a matter of small mechanical changes. That's what I'm trying to work on."
Catcher Francisco Cervelli chalked it up as just one of those days.
"In the bullpen, he was a little uncomfortable," Cervelli said. "It was a game where anything he threw, they hit. It was like, 'What can we do?' Just make quality pitches. But if you get behind with those kind of hitters, they are professional. I think he has one of the best sliders in the Major Leagues. It's fun to catch. But in this game, it just wasn't there."
Some have suggested that fatigue can be a factor for Kuroda, because he had also tailed off down the stretch the in 2012, when he pitched a career-high 219 2/3 innings. Girardi isn't certain he buys that line of thinking.
"I guess you can say that," he said. "It's just a guy who went through a tremendous four months and then had a couple tougher months. If you have a tough month in May and a tough month in July and the other four months are good, people probably don't say much. But because of the way he finished, people are probably going to question what we're going to have this year.
"I do feel good about him. Maybe he ran out of gas a little, but I can't say that for sure."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.