Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Hiroki Kuroda wanted to come back
By Ramona Shelburne
LOS ANGELES -- In retrospect, Hiroki Kuroda's decision was actually pretty simple. If the Dodgers wanted him back another year, he wanted to be with the Dodgers.
"I've been playing with the Dodgers for three years. I love my teammates, I love this city. So if the Dodgers wanted me, I wanted to come back," Kuroda said through an interpreter at a press conference Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Kuroda, who signed a one-year, $12-million contract on Nov. 15, said that returning to his native Japan was the only other option he really considered.
"Retirement was not one of the options," said Kuroda, who also received a full no-trade clause. "I was able to pitch close to the ideal pitching performance that I had imagined for last year. So basically my performance last year motivated me to continue next year."
Kuroda, 35, was 11-13 with a 3.39 ERA in 196 1-3 innings last season, and was healthy the entire year after injuries disrupted his first two years with the Dodgers. He had career highs in victories, innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts (159) last season.
Kuroda's career 3.60 ERA is the lowest among all Japanese starting pitchers in major league history.
Though he was pleased with his performance in his three seasons with the Dodgers, he still felt he had more to accomplish.
"There are so many other things that I wanted to accomplish that I haven't yet, so that's why I wanted to come back," he said.
Kuroda laughed, then said, "World championship."
No translation needed.
Kuroda also added that this season will not necessarily be his last. He said he signed for one year to motivate himself and to keep his options open going forward.
"You never know what's going to happen in baseball but I always think that every year I pitch is going to be my last year and I give my 100 percent because of it," he said.
"If [my career] ends next year, then it will be with the Dodgers. But I could continue after that so who knows."
Kuroda's return gives the Dodgers four established starting pitchers, along with Ted Lilly, who re-signed last month for $33 million over three years, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. The other member of the rotation, Vicente Padilla, is a free agent.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.