Kuroda discusses retirement, re-signing with the Yankees, plans for 2014 and more

Update: Yankees announce Matt Thornton signing
Marcus: A-Rod ruling imminent; decision appears favorable to MLB
(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

There are less than two weeks left in Masahiro Tanaka‘s signing period, and if the Yankees manage to lure him to New York, an argument can be made they signed the two best free agent starters this winter. The team re-upped Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $16M contract weeks ago, but because he was re-signed and not brought in from another team, it doesn’t really feel like an addition. It’s weird.

A few days ago, Kuroda spoke to Sponichi Annex about all sorts of interesting and important topics. A reader (@iyasuN) was kind enough to send me a translation … like a real translation, not some Google translate gibberish. Kuroda discussed a whole bunch of stuff, so here’s a point-by-point rundown.

On playing in 2014

Kuroda said he seriously considered retirement this offseason and spoke to Hideki Matsui — he holds Matsui in very high regard among his peers (they’re the same age) — about walking away at Mariano Rivera‘s retirement ceremony in September. Matsui told Kuroda he retired because “he did everything he could and he was done.” Because he is healthy and doesn’t have any physical problems (like Matsui’s knees), Kuroda decided to return for another season. He is very much year-to-year at this point of his career, however.

On re-signing with the Yankees

Once he decided to pitch another season, Kuroda gave the Yankees “top priority” during the offseason. The Hiroshima Carp (his former team in Japan) did contact him over the winter but by then he had already decided to return to New York. If he does ever return to the Japan, it will be for Hiroshima and not another club.

On the Yankees and a contract extension

The Yankees approached Kuroda about an extension the day after he beat the Angels for his 11th win of the season (so August 13th). Hal Steinbrenner specifically told him they were “ready to talk” that day in the Yankee Stadium weight room and soon opened negotiations with his agent. Kuroda was not ready to commit to another year just yet, so nothing came of it. Between Kuroda, Robinson Cano, and Russell Martin a few years ago, the Yankees appear to be loosening on that archaic “no extensions” policy.

On his late-season fade

Kuroda was unable to figure out why he struggled so much late in the season, but, in hindsight, he thinks he put too much pressure on himself and worked too hard early in the season, especially as the team struggled. From the beginning of May through the end of July, the Yankees scored a total of 41 runs in his 16 starts, an average of 2.56 runs per start. That’s an awful lot of stressful innings. Kuroda said he simply wore himself out both physically and mentally, and there was nothing in the tank those last few weeks.

On throwing 200+ innings

Although he has thrown at least 200 innings each of the last three seasons, Kuroda isn’t sure how important that is to him. He specifically cited Andy Pettitte, who scaled back his workload later in his career and was successful all season and into the postseason. (Pettitte last threw 200+ innings in 2008.) Given his age, Kuroda indicated he and the team might try to control his workload a bit better next year in an effort to stay fresh for all 162 games and a potential postseason run. He’d rather be a 180+ inning guy who is effective all season than a 200+ inning guy who is out of gas in September. Makes sense to me.

Update: Yankees announce Matt Thornton signing
Marcus: A-Rod ruling imminent; decision appears favorable to MLB
  • Preston

    I like everything about this guy, he almost immediately became one of my favorite players on the roster.

  • blee

    I hope he recognizes that he’s faded at the end of the season last 2 yrs, and is able make some adjustments for the playoffs this year. He’s such a valuable part of our rotation, we need him for the postseason.

    BTW. is the homepage still down?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      RAB homepage? Working fine for me and we haven’t gotten any other complaints. Clear your browser cache and see if that helps.

      • I’m One

        Love Kuroda. Such a classy guy and a great pitcher. Hope he’s effective all season this year.

        I’ve been having an odd issue with the site for a few months now. Today as an example, while at the home page, I see the A-Rod article and this one. It shows 7 comments for this article, yet I only see 4 when I click on the link for them and I don’t see the link to the A-Rod article. I’m sure I’ll see all comments once this one is posted, but if I leave the comments and come back to this post, I may not see all of them again.

      • blee

        yep.. that did it! thanks!

  • Derek

    <3 Hirok

  • Chris Jones

    Besides Mussina this has been my favorite signing as a Yankee fan. He is so underrated and is just a classy guy. I love his competitiveness and whether he’s throwing a good game or getting hammered his demeanor never changes.

  • MaKun Migraines

    What a class act Kuroda is, but geeze Matsui is the man!

  • CashmanNinja

    He is definitely professional and classy. He doesn’t beat around the bush and act oblivious like some athletes do at times. He recognizes that he’s older and has to pace himself a bit better. That’s the difference between being a so-so pitcher and being a great pitcher. And yes…I consider him in the “great” category since pitching in NY is definitely a lot different than other places. He may not be elite like Felix Hernandez or anything like that, but Kuroda has been a flat out stud for us — minus the late season fades the last 2 years. Imagine what this team would have been like without Kuroda pitching the way he did. He has given us everything we could have hoped for and then some; and he’s done it with class.

  • MC

    Awesome write up. I rarely know what this guy is thinking. Nice insight on how he looks at things.