Dodgers agree to 3-year, $35.2 million contract with Kuroda

Updated: December 15, 2007, 8:43 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Fulfilling one of their major offseason goals, the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to terms with Japanese free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on a three-year, $35.2 million contract.

Kuroda, who turns 33 in February, passed a physical examination on Saturday and will be introduced Sunday at a Dodger Stadium news conference.

"Kuroda was arguably the best starting pitcher on the free-agent market and will be a great addition to our staff," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "There was a lot of competition for a pitcher of his ilk, and we're thrilled that he's chosen to become a Dodger and to make Los Angeles his home."

Colletti has said throughout the offseason that adding a starting pitcher was a top priority. By signing a free agent instead of making a trade, the Dodgers didn't have to give up any of their highly regarded young players.

The Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks and Kansas City Royals were among the teams bidding for Kuroda's services.

Kuroda spent the past 11 seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League, where he had a 103-89 record and 3.69 ERA in 271 games. He went 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 26 games last season, working seven complete games.

A native of Osaka, Kuroda made the Japanese All-Star team in each of the past three seasons. He had his best year in 2006, going 13-6 with a league-leading 1.85 ERA in 26 games. He had a league-leading 15 victories the previous year, and was a member of the bronze medal-winning Japanese Olympic team in 2004.

Kuroda is friends with All-Star Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, and the two are represented in Japan by the same sports agency. Saito joined the Dodgers before the 2006 season.

Colletti said last week he hadn't seen Kuroda pitch in person, but added: "The right people have seen him. What do I like about him? He's a good pitcher. He has some of the great attributes we admire in a pitcher."

Kuroda, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, will become the seventh Japanese player in Dodger history. Earlier this month, the team announced the signing of right-hander Robert Boothe, the club's first amateur signing from Japan.

Kuroda figures to join right-handers Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley in the Los Angeles starting rotation.

Among others competing for starting jobs will be right-hander Jason Schmidt, who signed a three-year, $47 million contract last winter, and right-hander Esteban Loaiza. Schmidt made only six starts before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last June, and Loaiza, claimed off waivers from Oakland on Aug. 29, is under contract for $6.5 million next year.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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