Hiroki Kuroda Shelled in Yankees Loss to Minnesota
Last night was a busy one for New York sports fans, as the Rangers were locked in an exciting Game 3 battle against the Ottawa Senators while Carmelo and the Knicks were being treated as the home team in New Jersey against the Nets. Having missed portions of his first two starts as a Yankee, I elected to take in some of Hiroki Kuroda’s outing at the Stadium against the Twins while also jumping around to see portions of the previously mentioned games.
I was excited to see Kuroda pitch yesterday primarily on the basis of his eight inning, five hit, zero earned run performance against the Angles last Friday at the home opener. Unfortunately, last night was an entirely different story. The Twins jumped all over Kuroda from the start, with four runs in the first inning highlighted by a Joe Mauer double and Justin Morneau home run. Everything the Twins put in play was hit hard, as the the Yankee right-hander was up in the zone and missing location for much of the evening. Kuroda’s fastball used to reach the mid 90’s in his younger days, but last night he was once again in the 90-92 mph range. Morneau, who is hitting home runs at the new Yankee Stadium at an astonishing rate, ended Kuroda’s night in the fifth inning when he launched an 83 mph slider into the seats. The final damage for Hiroki was ten hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, as the Yankees lost 6-5.
In some respects, the signing of Kuroda during the offseason was mostly forgotten about since it coincided with the acquisition of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. Although the Yankees are never afraid to their throw money around, in recent years they have at least attempted to be more cost consciousness when signing on veteran ballplayers, preferring the low risk/high reward strategy. It seems like the Cashman/Younger Steinbrenner regime would have been reluctant to give Kuroda a $10 million dollar contract for the season, as he is 37 years old and had spent his limited MLB career pitching for the Dodgers in the National League West. Like many other teams, the Yankees have been burned over the years by pitchers coming off respectable seasons in the NL trying in vain to find success against the brutal lineups of the American League East.
Though Kuroda’s career splits between facing NL versus AL batters isn’t encouraging, for now we will chalk up last night to just one bad start and hope that it’s just a function of him trying to get comfortable pitching against different opponents. He probably shouldn’t be in the #2 rotation spot behind CC, but reuniting with former battery mate Russell Martin will definitely aid him as he attempts to navigate through lineups. Kuroda will most likely pitch closer to a 4.00 era than the 3.07 era he put up a year ago, and provided he remains healthy he could (at the very least) be an innings eater and more reliable pitcher for Joe Girardi than A.J. Burnett was over the course of the previous two seasons. His one year deal we likely be his only season in pinstripes, as he is supposed to serve as a buffer and allow the Yankees prominent minor league arms to remain on the lower levels in order to build up their innings and workloads.
In addition to Kuroda, New York’s starting pitching has been slow out of the gate and Phil Hughes is in desperate need of a good outing tonight in the finale against the Twins. He has gotten beaten up pretty good in his first two starts of the 2012 season, as his velocity and location problems of 2011 are still lingering. It is still early, but Phil’s spot in the rotation is on shaky ground and he needs to get on track sooner rather than later.
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