New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda

More tough luck for Kuroda

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
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CHICAGO -- There is a good chance Hiroki Kuroda quit drinking coffee about two months ago.

The New York Yankees right-hander was once again in a nail-biter Tuesday, ending up on the wrong end of a 3-2 final against the Chicago White Sox.

Tight games are becoming Kuroda’s signature as Tuesday’s outing was his 14th consecutive start decided by three runs or less. Nine of those 14 starts were decided by two runs or less.

Call Kuroda a man on a deserted island because not only was he abandoned by his own offense, his opponents weren’t about to send him a search party. White Sox starter Chris Sale entered with a major league low 2.47 runs of support per game and a 1-9 record over his last 11 starts (eight quality), despite a 3.23 ERA in that stretch.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda took his first loss since June 30.
“I don’t feel sorry for him, nor does Sale,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You know he’s going to be tough. He’s just one of those guys, he doesn’t make it easy. He just moves the ball in and out.”

It’s not that it was Kuroda’s best outing, but he did manage to work his way out of trouble. He gave up season-highs in hits (nine) and pitches (116).

It ended up being his first loss since June 30, when he gave up three home runs to the Baltimore Orioles.

“All I can think about is to make sure when I take the mound, I contribute to a win and today I couldn't do that,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “In that sense I feel really bad.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows that Kuroda has nothing to apologize for, acknowledging that he is impressed with the way his pitcher keeps getting after it in each start.

“He has not shown any frustration,” Girardi said. “He’s pitched extremely well and he should have a lot more than 10 wins. He just goes up there and throws up zeroes for us and that’s what he’s been doing all year.”

Sale was just better on this night, pitching with an added fire that nearly proved to be costly. He gave up a first inning run when Alfonso Soriano scored from second base on a wild pitch and appeared to be getting flustered. But he settled in, with the White Sox finally scoring single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

After helping the Yankees past Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Clayton Kershaw in his last start, Kuroda couldn’t get past the All-Star Sale in this one.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Girardi said. “I thought he threw the ball pretty good. They had some hits with runners in scoring position. That was probably the difference in the game. You give up three runs in seven innings, usually you’ll sign up for that.”

First Pitch: Kuroda All-Star-worthy?

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
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NEW YORK -- After shutting down Baltimore over seven innings Saturday, Hiroki Kuroda lowered his ERA to 2.77. He's been the Yankees' best pitcher through the first half, although his wins and losses don't reflect how well he's pitched.

Despite his strong work, Kuroda was not named to the AL All-Star team, although he possibly could be added later as a replacement. His current omission, however, begs the question: Does Kuroda deserve to be on the squad?

The AL currently has nine starters on its roster. Here's a look at how Kuroda stacks up against the selections.

• Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 2.77 ERA, 79 K, 1.029 WHIP)

Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA, 81 K, 1.02 WHIP)

Bartolo Colon (11-3, 2.78 ERA, 61 K, 1.103 WHIP)

Yu Darvish (8-4, 3.02 ERA, 157 K, 1.047 WHIP)

Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 130 K, 1.108 WHIP)

Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.60 ERA, 103 K, 0.882 WHIP)

Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.78 ERA, 131 K, 1.220 WHIP)

Chris Sale (5-8, 2.78 ERA, 123 K, 0.962 WHIP)

Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA, 139 K, 0.917 WHIP)

Justin Verlander (9-5, 3.54 ERA, 119 K, 1.357 WHIP)

Kuroda is tied eighth in wins, has the fourth-best ERA, is ninth in strikeouts and fifth in WHIP.

Overall, it would make a good argument that Kuroda deserved a spot over Verlander and Masterson.

AL manager Jim Leyland said Saturday that he factored in Verlander's history, as he's won the MVP and Cy Young Award. It's hard to argue with that.

Masterson, though, doesn't have those same credentials. He does, however, lead the league innings pitched in games started.

Whether he deserved to be elected or not, Kuroda still has a chance to be named an All-Star due to pitchers potentially backing out because of injuries, or starting the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Kuroda has never been named an All-Star.

Up now: Wallace Matthews writes about Mariano Rivera's second blown save. I touched on Kuroda's gem. Michael Pineda is staying in Triple-A.

On deck: The Yankees begin a four-game set against the Royals. Wally will have you covered from Yankee Stadium.

Question: Should Kuroda have been selected to the All-Star team?

Kuroda's gem wasted in 2-1 loss

July, 7, 2013
7/07/13
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NEW YORK -- Sunday's blown save had a little more sting to it for Mariano Rivera after watching Hiroki Kuroda dissect the Orioles all afternoon.

"It's difficult. It's a loss. But the way [Hiroki] Kuroda was pitching, he was doing outstanding. He did great," Rivera said. "It would have been a good game to save. I don't say the other ones aren't good, but this one should have been great, but I didn't [get it done]."

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda scorched the Birds over seven scoreless innings.
Kuroda pitched a brilliant game on Sunday as he held the Orioles scoreless over seven innings in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to Baltimore. Kuroda yielded three hits and cruised through 88 pitches.

"It was good to see him get out there and throw extremely well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his sinker was good and I thought his splitter was extremely good today."

Kuroda had been scheduled to start Friday, but was pushed back due to a hip issue. An MRI came back clean and Kuroda's bullpen session Friday went well, allowing the team to slot him into the rotation on Sunday. The Yankees had to rearrange their rotation due to starter David Phelps going on the DL.

Facing an Orioles team that tagged him for three homers and four runs a week ago, Kuroda pitched his best game in more than a month. Armed with a devastating splitter, Kuroda held the the Orioles to just four baserunners, and he allowed just one walk over his final 13 batters. The Orioles went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position against Kuroda, who lowered his ERA to 2.77.

"I was trying to keep us in the ball game," Kuroda said. "With a one-run lead, I think I was able to do that."

Saddled with a no-decision on Sunday, Kuroda has now won just one game in his past nine starts. Sunday seemed like it would be the second one, but a rare blown save kept him from win No. 8.

"It was a good situation to have [David] Robertson in the eighth and Mariano in the ninth," Kuroda said. "With that, if we don't get the win, nothing you can do about it."

ROBERTSON WANTS IN:
David Robertson hopes to take part in the festivities at Citi Field on July 16.

"I would love to go the All-Star game, especially with Mo [Rivera] in his last year, it would be a lot fun, and it being in New York too," Robertson said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully I can win in the votes."

Robertson is part of the Final Vote, where fans will select the final member of the AL All-Star team in balloting that runs through Thursday. Robertson is alongside four other relievers in Detroit's Joaquin Benoit, Toronto's Steve Delabar, Boston's Koji Uehara and Texas' Tanner Scheppers.

In 2010, former Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher won the Final Vote and went all out in his campaign to get in, even posing with a surfboard. Robertson isn't quite sure which direction his campaign is going to go at the minute, but it won't be emulating Swisher's.

"I'm sure we'll try to do everything we can to win," Robertson said. "I don't know if you'll see me in a surfboard and a Tommy Bahama."

Rapid Reaction: Orioles 4, Yankees 2

June, 30, 2013
6/30/13
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BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles completed the sweep of the New York Yankees by hitting three solo homers off Hiroki Kuroda. The real story once again for the Yankees is that they can barely score. Baltimore, meanwhile, is an exciting, well-built team that is no longer intimidated by the Yankees.

WHAT IT MEANS: After 81 games, the Yankees are 42-39. They have lost five in a row. They trail the Red Sox by 6½ games in the AL East and have moved into fourth place, just two games in front of last-place Toronto. The second-place Orioles (47-36) are 2½ games behind Boston.

DYNAMIC DUO: What makes the Orioles suddenly such an intriguing and exciting team to watch begins with two players: Manny Machado and Chris Davis. Machado, a doubles machine, creamed a solo shot off Kuroda in the first.

In the second, Davis mauled Kuroda, smashing a shot the other way for his 31st homer of the year.

THREE IN A ROW: In the third, Nate McLouth joined the party, hitting the Orioles third solo shot in as many innings.

Machado added his major league-leading 38th double. Machado ended up not scoring because of a nice play by third baseman David Adams to end the third.

YANKEES SCORE EARLY: Between the Machado and Davis long balls, the Yankees actually tied the game. In the second, Zoilo Almonte and Chris Stewart knocked singles and Orioles starter Chris Tillman got wild. With two outs he would walk the No. 9 hitter, Adams, to load the bases and Brett Gardner to gift the Yankees a run.

They could have had more, but Ichiro Suzuki meekly popped out on the infield to end the inning.

CANO, DON'T YA KNOW: In the sixth, Robinson Cano got the Yankees on the board again, nailing his 17th homer of the year. It was his first since June 13th, spanning 51 at-bats.

SEVENTH-INNING THREAT: In the seventh against side-winder Darren O'Day, the Yankees put the tying run on second with one out via walks to Jayson Nix and Adams. Gardner flew out to short center and Ichiro popped out even more meekly than the first time.

NINTH TRY: Lyle Overbay led off the ninth with a double off Jim Johnson, so the the tying run came to the plate with no outs. Nix struck out swinging. Next, Stewart took first after being hit with a pitch, placing the tying run there. Adams would strike out on three pitches. Gardner would ground into a fielder's choice at second to end the game.

HIROKI: Kuroda was a pro's pro once again. Yes, he gave up the three home runs and a seventh-inning tack-on run went on his ledger, but he kept his team in the game. It is not his fault the Yankees can't hit. He dropped to 7-6 with a 2.95 ERA.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Yankees go to Minnesota for four games. Here are your pitching matchups:

• Monday, Andy Pettitte (5-6, 4.22) vs. Scott Diamond (5-7, 5.40).
• Tuesday, Phil Hughes (3-7, 4.82) vs. Samuel Deduno (4-2, 3.32).
• Wednesday, CC Sabathia (8-6, 4.15) vs. P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.03).
• Thursday, David Phelps (5-5, 4.95) vs. Kyle Gibson (3.00).

QUESTION: What did you think of the first 81 games?

Kuroda bests former team

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
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NEW YORK -- Before he took the mound Wednesday, Hiroki Kuroda let himself reminisce about his time with the Dodgers, the team he spent his first four major league seasons with.

"There were a lot [of] former teammates on that team," Kuroda said. "But once the game started, I didn't really think about it. I was just concentrated on getting outs."

Facing his former team for the first time, Kuroda picked up the win as he tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball in the Yankees 6-4 win. Kuroda snapped a three-game losing streak as he improved to 7-5. Kuroda pitched to three former teammates in Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis.

"I thought he threw the ball really well today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "As much as it's not a lot of his teammates [on the Dodgers], I'm sure with the matchup today he felt a little bit of something. He pitched extremely well."

After a stellar career in Japan, Kuroda pitched for the Dodgers from 2008-11, going 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA. Since joining the Yankees in 2012, Kuroda has actually fared better as Wednesday's win now has him at 23-16 with a 3.16 ERA during his two seasons in the Bronx.

The veteran held the Dodgers scoreless through six on Wednesday but ran into trouble in the seventh as he allowed a pair of runs. A run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. knocked him out of the game with the Yankees ahead 3-2, but the Yankees bullpen held on. Kuroda gave up eight hits and struck out two.

"Today my split and slider weren't really good," Kuroda said. "I would call it a tough outing."

IMPRESSED BY PUIG: The Yankees were impressed by Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig, who went 2-for-5 in the opener. Puig had great at-bats all afternoon and showcased his speed.

"Hits the ball hard, I can tell you that," Girardi said. "Got a very good arm and is aggressive. He's a good looking young player."

In the first and eighth innings, Puig hit balls to shallow center and tried to turn both into doubles. In the first, Brett Gardner was able to throw him out at second, but Puig beat Gardner's throw in the eighth and was rewarded with a hard-earned double. He struck out to end the game against Mariano Rivera.

In the field, Puig nearly had the play of the day as he nearly threw out Yankees designated hitter Thomas Neal at first on a liner to right field.

"Very interesting player. I think he has a lot of impact," Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki said. "You saw him trying to throw a guy out at first and running to second on the single up the middle. Definitely somebody that has impact."

STATUS OF THE PEN: Mariano Rivera and David Robertson both said they are available for the second game after throwing in the day game. Robertson threw 2/3 innings on 14 pitches, while Rivera tossed a perfect ninth to pick up his 25th save on just 10 pitches.
It may have been a short series, but a sweep is a sweep. With their dramatic 2-1 ninth-inning victory Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Mets pulled off their third sweep of the Yankees in the 17-year history of the Subway Series, dropping the Yankees into their first three-game losing streak of the season. They were the last team in baseball to have yet to lose three in a row this season.

The Yankees and Mets will now head to the Bronx for two games.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsHiroki Kuroda threw seven shutout innings on Tuesday night.
• There weren't many Yankees highlights in Queens, but Hiroki Kuroda was certainly one of them. The hard-luck right-hander, in his first outing since having to leave his last start after taking a one-hopper off his calf, threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out seven. Still, he and Matt Harvey, who pitched him virtually to a standstill, had to settle for no-decisions. The win went to reliever Scott Rice, the loss to Mariano Rivera.

Brett Gardner was another highlight. Although Gardner was charged with the throwing error that set up the game-winning run in the ninth, Joe Girardi seemed to feel catcher Chris Stewart should have stopped the ball from going through, and Mo admitted he should have been backing up the play. But before that, not only had Gardner had four excellent at-bats against Harvey -- two hits, a run scored and two line outs -- he also made his second spectacular catch in as many nights to rob Daniel Murphy, this time of a possible double as he ran into the center field wall to snag his sixth-inning drive with a runner on second.

"I don't think he's too happy with me right now," Gardner said of Murphy. "But that's all right."

Lyle Overbay struck out in his first two at-bats against Harvey, once on a 97 mph fastball and once on a changeup, but hung in against the change in his third at-bat and lined it into right-center to drive in the Yankees' only run of the night, in the sixth inning.

David Robertson bounced back from his nightmarish outing in taking the loss Monday night to pitch a spotless eighth tonight. "I wouldn't rather have another eighth- or ninth-inning guy in the game," Gardner said of Robertson and Rivera. "But they're not perfect."

• The loss dropped the Yankees to 30-21, a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, and below 10 games over .500 for the first time since May 16.
Hiroki KurodaJustin Edmonds/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda had another solid night despite giving up a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
DENVER -- As difficult as it may be to believe, the New York Yankees lost a game at Coors Field in which their starting pitcher allowed just two runs.

Almost as equally difficult to believe is that in a ballpark that is still conducive to the home run and high-scoring games remain the rule, not the exception, Tuesday's game between the Yankees and the Colorado Rockies was decided by a single pitch, a 3-2 fastball from Hiroki Kuroda in the sixth inning that drifted over the plate to Carlos Gonzalez, who airmailed it into the Rockies' bullpen for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

But the real story of Tuesday's game was not Kuroda, who has been the Yankees' best starting pitcher by far over the first 30 games of the season, or one bad pitch.

It was that the Yankees' lineup could not manage to score one run, let alone the three needed for victory, in a park known as a launching pad and against a pitcher (Jorge De La Rosa) making just his fourth start since returning from Tommy John surgery.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesRobinson Cano was 0-for-4 in the Yankees' 2-0 loss.
Kuroda -- who had not lost since the second game of the season on April 3, and whose ERA (2.30) is a full run lower than the next best Yankees starter (CC Sabathia) -- paid not only for his mistake but for the feebleness of the Yankees' lineup, which resembled something you might see in a split-squad game in spring training.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Brett Gardner the night off, and with Kevin Youkilis having joined Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the DL, and Eduardo Nunez's rib cage still too sore for him to play, the Yankees essentially were starting backups in place of backups: Jayson Nix for Nunez, Chris Nelson for Youkilis, Ben Francisco for Gardner.

And against a lefty with a good changeup like De La Rosa's, that lineup was beaten nearly before the game began. The Yankees managed just four singles all game -- Nix had two of them -- and a total of six baserunners with walks to Francisco and Gardner, who hit for Francisco in the seventh. The Yankees didn't help themselves by going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but to be fair, two of the Yankees' best opportunities of the game -- Nix reached third base in the first inning and Chris Stewart made it that far in the fifth -- came with two outs and no margin for error.

"Some nights you're just not going to hit," Girardi said, and that is certainly true.

"I think people always remember what it used to be like here," Girardi said. "But it seems like you see some closer games now.”

Closer, maybe, but not much lower scoring. Even though they now cook the baseballs in a humidor at Coors Field to try to counteract the effect of the thin mile-high air, a total of 153 runs had been scored in the first 15 games at Coors, or an average of about 10 per game.

So while the Yankees have played remarkably well so far this season despite all their injuries -- the loss dropped them to 18-13 -- and their record against left-handed starters is a surprising 8-4, it is clear that Girardi's right-handed hitting batting order is not exactly Murderer's Row.

Francisco is still mired in a slump, with his .129 batting average. Vernon Wells has cooled somewhat from his excellent start and his average is now down to .270. Even with his two hits Tuesday, Nix is batting .241. And teams have absolutely no incentive to pitch to Robinson Cano, the only consistently dangerous bat in their lineup. Incredibly, Stewart's .261 batting average was the fourth-highest in the Yankees' batting order.

"We wasted whatever opportunities that we had," Wells said. "It’s hard to win games when you get four hits and don’t put any runs up on the board. Kuroda threw well. We just couldn’t do anything to support him."

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 11, Indians 6

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
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CLEVELAND -- Crisis? What crisis?

What it means: That the New York Yankees, who were a disaster on Saturday, are officially a hot club on Monday, riding a two-game winning streak after an 11-6 win that spoiled the Cleveland Indians' home opener and wiping the smile off Nick Swisher's face, for one day at least.

Welcome back, Robby: Robinson Cano finally began his regular season, belting solo homers in the fifth and sixth innings. Cano also had a double, a walk and scored four runs, and raised his average to .231. If the Yankees hope to do anything this season, this better be only the beginning for Cano.

Pronks Cheer: Travis Hafner was cheered upon his return to Cleveland, where he played 10 seasons, but the cheers turned to jeers when Pronk drove one over the center-field fence with two men on, giving the Yankees a 3-0 first-inning lead. It was his 100th career home run at Progressive Field -- but first as a member of the visiting team.

Hafner made more frenemies in the third when he lined a single to center field with Cano (leadoff double) aboard to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. Hafner now leads the team with six RBIs.

Wild Men: Both Hiroki Kuroda and Ubaldo Jimenez struggled through control problems in the first inning. Each walked two batters, each allowed three first-inning runs, and the two needed a combined 61 pitches to get out of the inning. Manager Joe Girardi had Shawn Kelley warming up in the first inning, but incredibly, Kuroda recovered from that first inning and worked into the sixth without allowing another run.

Swish-Direction: Great play by Swisher in the first inning in which he hesitated in the baseline just long enough to confuse Lyle Overbay and Cano, causing Michael Brantley's bouncer to skip past them for a single that scored Asdrubal Cabrera from second and allowed Swisher to go all the way to third in the Indians' three-run first.

In a Stew: Chris Stewart manufactured the Yankees' fifth run nearly single-handedly, singling with two out in the fourth and stealing second -- the Indians were so surprised, catcher Carlos Santana didn't even bother to throw -- and scoring on Brett Gardner's looper to short center.

Off the rails: The game spun out of control in the seventh inning when the Yankees added three more runs to go up 11-3, with the help of a walk, a throwing error, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.

Kelley Green: Kelley had a horrendous eighth inning, allowing a double, triple, two-run homer and two wild pitches to give the Indians three runs.

JoBBa: Working with a five-run lead, Joba Chamberlain walked two batters and had to face Mark Reynolds with two out in the ninth, causing Girardi to make a visit to the mound and closer Mariano Rivera to get up in the bullpen. Joba wound up striking out Reynolds to end the game after a crisp 3 hours, 50 minutes.

What's coming: A story on Cano's resurgence, a blog on Hafner's happy homecoming, as well as assorted blogs out of the postgame clubhouse.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-0, at The Boss in the first of two split-squad games Saturday. (The second is against the Braves at Disney at 5:05 p.m.)

It was notable for a few reasons: Hiroki Kuroda's longest outing of the spring, Derek Jeter's first time playing shortstop on consecutive days, and a rarity from Mariano Rivera.

[+] EnlargeJorge Posada and Joe Girardi
AP Photo/Kathy WillensJorge Posada and Joe Girardi saw a rare sight Saturday: a Rivera pitch in the dirt.
HIRO SANDWICH: Kuroda worked six full innings and threw 68 pitches, which, with two more starts slated here before the club heads nort,h puts him right on track for the start of the season. That's the good news.

The bad news is that after three strong innings -- he retired the first seven Phillies he faced -- Kuroda got hit hard in the fourth after second baseman Gil Velazquez booted what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball. The next hitter, Domonic Brown, crushed a three-run homer, and a triple by Jermaine Mitchell and a hard RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt gave the Phils a 4-0 lead.

CAPTAIN CAMEO: In his first time playing back-to-back games at shortstop this spring, Jeter lashed a double to right-center to lead off the Yankees' first, fielded one routine grounder in the second, struck out in the third and then departed after the fourth inning.

Joe Girardi said Jeter's early exit was planned beforehand. "Next time I'll try to maybe go six and five, and just keep trying to increase it,"' Girardi said. "We'll see. I've got to see how he's doing. We've got to be somewhat still cautious with him."

WHAT WAS THAT? Rivera needed 17 pitches to get through the seventh inning, uncharacteristically went to full counts on two hitters and even walked one. But what caught Girardi's attention was one pitch Mo threw to Steven Lerud.

"He actually threw a ball in the dirt," Girardi said. "Me and Jorge (Posada) were commenting on it. You never see him throw a ball in the dirt. He was just a little rusty."

Mo laughed it off, saying he was rushing his mechanics a little. "Most of the time it's not gonna be like that," he said.

Mariano will work again in relief of Andy Pettitte in a minor-league game here on Monday.

CUT-DOWN DAY: The Yankees reassigned OFs Zoilo Almonte and Slade Heathcott to the minor-league complex. Heathcott is still troubled by patellar tendinitis in his left knee and would have been shut down for an indefinite period anyway.

Afternoon Notes: Hiro, Youk & Roker

March, 11, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Before the Yankees bring back Scott Brosius, let's get to some afternoon notes:

1.) HIRO PERFORMANCE: Hiroki Kuroda continues to look very good this spring. He pitched four scoreless innings against the Cardinals and allowed just three hits, walking none while striking out six. He already looks ready for the regular season.

"I'm getting there,: Kuroda said.

2.) TRUE YANKEE: In the fourth, Kevin Youkilis hit an absolute bomb of a homer run. As he rounded the bases you could hear a lot of, "Yoooooooooooooooouk," in the crowd.

Youkilis also played first on Monday. Since he won a Gold Glove at the position in 2007, there is no question he can play it; Joe Girardi just wants him to get some reps there.

3.) FRANCISCO TREAT: Girardi said new acquisition Ben Francisco will have a "chance" to make this team because he hits lefties well. In his career, Francisco has a .743 OPS vs. lefties and a .755 OPS against righties.

4.) WHO'S THAT? During warmups, there was a No. 98, who was noticeably behind the rest of the group during running drills.

Who was it? Al Roker, who was filming a segment for his Weather Channel show and "Today."

5.) BROSIUS: Just to make sure there is no Twitter eruption, I was kidding about Brosius.

Morning Notes: Girardi watches Grandy

February, 21, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- No big news this morning, just little things that you had to watch for. For instance:

1. GRANDERSON HITS, GIRARDI WATCHES: Center fielder Curtis Granderson, who struggled through 2012 despite leading the team with 43 home runs, had a session in the indoor batting cage this morning and Joe Girardi, who normally wanders out to the back field to watch the pitchers, came down to keep an eye on Grandy instead. And in between rounds -- he alternated with Dan Johnson -- Granderson and Girardi engaged in what appeared to be pretty serious conversation.

Afterward, Girardi wouldn't give me anything about what went on except to say, "You have a keen eye." Oh, yeah, and to remind me not to post the muscle-up video.

Later, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that Grandy would take fly balls in left field today. So that's what that was all about.

2. KURODA ON THE HILL: Hiroki Kuroda will throw a round of live BP at 12:15 p.m. on the main field at Steinbrenner to a group that includes Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Rivera. None of the other starters or relievers is slated to throw BP today.

3. PHELPS ON TRACK TO START SATURDAY: David Phelps and Adam Warren are throwing side sessions this morning, and assuming both go OK, Phelps will start Saturday's preseason opener against the Braves in Kissimmee and Warren will start Sunday against the Blue Jays at The Boss.

4. NO, TAGUCHI! That was the New York Post headline the morning of Oct. 14, 2006, when So Taguchi, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, belted a ninth-inning home run off Billy Wagner to start the Mets on the road to ruin in the NLCS. Well, Taguchi, now 43 and retired, was in the Yankees' clubhouse this morning, chatting up his Japanese countryman Kuroda. Wonder if Taguchi will stop at St. Lucie while he's in Florida.

The Yankees' Cy Young goes to ...

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
6:20
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... Rafael Soriano.

With the AL and NL Cy Youngs being awarded on Wednesday, we are doling out our own award for the Yankees. Soriano gets the nod over CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Soriano's 42 saves in 46 chances -- beginning in May -- might make him the team's MVP (Tune in on Thursday to find out).

With David Robertson still an unknown in the ninth, Soriano might have been the difference in a division title and the wild card.

Sabathia and Kuroda deserved serious consideration, as well. If you want to make the starters-are-more-important-than relievers argument, I can understand that. But how do you choose between the two?

Kuroda (16-11) had more wins than Sabathia (15-6), while they basically had the same ERA. Kuroda finished at 3.32 compared to Sabathia's 3.38. Kuroda was a bit more durable, with 219 2/3 innings to Sabathia's 200.

In the end, Soriano's the choice for the Yankees' 2012 Cy Young.

Question: Who do you think was the Yankees' best pitcher in '12?

Cash's moment of clarity ...

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
8:40
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... will come while he is in an airplane somewhere between Indian Wells, Ca., and New York City as he travels home from the GM meetings Friday afternoon.

By 5 p.m. on Friday, the three pending free agents to whom the Yankees have made qualifying offers -- Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher and Hiroki Kuroda -- must inform the team whether they will accept a one-year deal at $13.3 million or enter the marketplace.

And once those decisions are in, GM Brian Cashman can get on with his life of deciding how to repopulate the Yankees roster for 2013.

"It’s helpful information, there’s no doubt about it," he said. "We’ll learn a lot after tomorrow."

[+] EnlargeBrian Cashman
William Perlman/US PresswireBrian Cashman will have a clearer picture of the Yankees' offseason outlook on Friday.
Specifically, he will know if he is shopping for a new set-up man/closer, a new right fielder and a new starting pitcher. The likely answers, in order, are definitely, definitely and (surprisingly) quite possibly.

There's little doubt that both Soriano and Swisher will decline the offer. And judging by the talk going around the GM meetings -- that several teams are interested in offering two-year deals to the 37-year-old pitcher -- Kuroda, too, may turn down what would amount to a $3 million raise over his 2012 salary.

Cashman said he did not know which of the three would or would not accept the offers. "I haven’t asked," he said. "I’ve got no idea on what that side of the fence does. It’s all new. We’d be very happy (for them to accept), let’s put it that way. It will certainly dictate and affect how we move forward one way or the other."

Scott Boras, Soriano's agent, sidestepped a direct question about whether his client would accept the Yankees' qualifying offer but his answer said it all: "Most qualifying offers are really for players of the highest value. When teams make them, they’re acknowledging the value and other teams know that, as well. I don’t anticipate many players accepting single-year contracts that are in that arena."

So that's that.

Cashman did not rule out the possibility of the Yankees carrying both Soriano and Mariano Rivera, both at closer-level salaries, for 2013. "It's happened before," he said, referring to the original deal that he was so vocally and publicly against when Soriano joined the team in 2011.

But he also refused to commit saying he needing to replace Soriano, even as a set-up man, in his bullpen.

"I do like what we have," hed said. "I think Joba (Chamberlain) is going to be really good for us. I think David Robertson, obviously, we already know how good he is, but I think Boone Logan has been very underrated. I think Clay Rapada was a huge addition for us. And I think David Aardsma, a former closer with Seattle, will serve us well. So do we have to replace Soriano? Hard to say. Let’s first find out if he’s not even with us, I guess."

That moment of clarity will come at 5 p.m. tomorrow, while Cashman heads home to plan his next move.

Yankees free agents, club options

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
7:36
PM ET
Here are the Yankee players who will either be free agents, or have club options on their serivices for next year:

FREE AGENTS

Nick Swisher
Russell Martin
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Mariano Rivera
Ichiro Suzuki
Raul Ibanez
Derek Lowe
Eric Chavez
Andruw Jones
Freddy Garcia

CLUB OPTIONS

Robinson Cano ($14 million or $2 million buyout)
Curtis Granderson ($13 million, $2 million buyout)

PLAYER OPTION

Rafael Soriano (owed $14 million for 2013, or can take $1.5 million buyout and become a free agent).

How many of these guys would you bring back?

Five things after 3-0 loss in Game 2

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
10:25
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1. KURODA'S GEM: Hiroki Kuroda's teammates could not have asked for more from the veteran, who made the first start of his career on three days' rest in Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday.

He certainly can ask them to give him some help, though.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda
Kuroda pitched a fantastic game as the hard-luck loser in Sunday's game. He was tagged for three runs in 7 2/3 innings, but pitched better than his final line indicated, as he struck out 11.

"Looking at some of the games recently, I knew it was going to be really close, I had to minimize the damage," Kuroda said through a translator.

2. JETER NOT THERE: The Yankees played without shortstop Derek Jeter and his teammates acknowledged it wasn't the same without their captain in the dugout. Jeter fractured his left ankle Saturday and was not at the Stadium and won't travel with the team to Detroit.

"Of course it's different. He's your captain and such a huge part of the team," Yankees outfielder Raul Ibanez said. "At the same time we got to battle back and pull together and do this together."

3. NO PLAY FOR TEX: In the seventh inning with the game scoreless and runners on first and third with one out, Delmon Young hit a ball near the seats in the foul territory diagonal from first base. First baseman Mark Teixeira ran over and seemed to have a play on the ball, but a fan got in the way.

Teixeira didn't make much of a deal about the play.

"There's a guy on third there so if I catch it and fall into the stands, he might score anyway," Teixeira said. "I don't think it was a big play in the game."

4. LONG STILL HAS FAITH: Yankees batters haven't given hitting coach Kevin Long any reason to have faith in them, but he still believes his group will put it all together. The Yankees have scored in just one of the 21 innings of the ALCS.

"It's not over. I know that things don't look good right now, but I believe in my guys," Long said. "Like I said, it's an uphill battle and it's not going to get any easier, but there's some fight left. We'll find a way to get it done."

5. VERLANDER ON TAP: The Yankees didn't do themselves any favors falling behind 0-2, as they will now have to try to right the ship against the AL's reigning MVP, Justin Verlander.

"It's a fun challenge. People think we're crazy to say that, but it is a fun challenge," Teixeira said. "If you're going to win a World Series you're going to have beat the best, and he's the best right now. So we're going to go into Detroit, the crowd's going to be rocking, they're going to be cheering for their own team and we have an opportunity to do something special and win a few games out there."

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Hiroki Kuroda
WINS ERA SO IP
2 3.86 14 18
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .353
HRC. Beltran 4
RBIC. Beltran 9
RC. Beltran 8
OPSC. Beltran 1.041
ERAM. Pineda 1.00
SOM. Tanaka 28

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