Tot's Thoughts - November 16, 2010

The Dodgers made a wise move by signing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract. The Japanese right-handed had an excellent season in 2010, much better than his 11-13 record might indicate. The Dodgers won 14 of his 31 starts, a number bettered only by Clayton Kershaw (18-14). L.A. was shutout in six of his starts and scored two or less runs for him 10 times.

Healthy for the first time in his tree-year Dodgers career, he had career highs in wins (11-13) with a 3.39 ERA in 196.1 innings and 159 strikeouts.

In 14 starts over the second half of the season, Kuroda posted a 2.87 ERA (30 ER/94.0 IP) and limited opponents to a .204 batting average, a mark that was tied for the fifth lowest in the National League. On the season, his 3.31 walk-to-strikeout ratio was the eighth best in the NL and his .243 opponents' batting average ranked 18th.

The contract will pay Kuroda $8 million in 2011, plus a $4 million signing bonus that will be paid out in 2012 and 2013, sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. He was coming off a $35.3 million, three-year deal that paid $13 million last season. He was the Opening Day starter in 2009.

Kuroda had been considering a return to his native Japan, where he once starred for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. But the 35-year-old right-hander decided to remain in the U.S., where he lives in the offseason with his wife and two children, for a fourth season in the major leagues

"We were interested in doing something maybe with an option for another year, but our appetite was one year as well," general manager Ned Colletti said. "As we continue our commitment to winning, Hiroki Kuroda will play a significant role in our rotation, which is a very important part of our club.

"He has had success in the regular season as well as the postseason and we look forward to having him back in a Dodger uniform in 2011. With four starters returning from last year, we feel very good about our rotation (Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda and Lilly) and we will continue to look for ways to improve the staff."

Kuroda's 3.60 ERA is the lowest among all Japanese starting pitchers in Major League history, topping Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.18, 2nd) and former Dodgers Hideo Nomo (4.24, 3rd) and Kazuhisa Ishii (4.44, 5th).  

With the Dodgers, Kuroda is 28-30 with a 3.60 ERA over 83 games (82 starts) the last three seasons. He has averaged just 2.06 walks per 9.0 innings in his three-year career, which is the fourth-lowest mark among National League pitchers since the start of the 2008 season.

The 35-year old was originally signed by Los Angeles to a three-year contract on Dec. 18, 2007 after a stellar career in the Japanese Central League, where he was a three-time All-Star (2005-07). At his introductory news conference at Dodger Stadium, more than 50 members of the Japanese and American media attended. In 11 seasons for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Kuroda went 103-89 while positing a 3.69 ERA in 271 games. In Japan, the right-hander was named the Most Valuable Pitcher and won a Gold Glove following the 2005 season.   

Talking to Torre
Colletti said, "I talked to Joe probably three-four times since the end of the season," Colletti said. "He was in Hawaii for a while. I'm leaving that to Joe when he wants to approach me with what he wants to do and when he wants to do it."  

Colletti also said he expects to announce the coaching staff in the next couple of days. "We've got a pretty good feel for it, there's just some other details we've gotta tie up," he said.  

Martin Working Out
Catcher Russell Martin is working out in Montreal with a personal trainer, Matt Colleran, who said said he "absolutely" expects Martin to be ready by spring training. Martin is running on a low-impact treadmill and expects to be able to resume full weight-bearing running in the "next couple of weeks."

But doesn't guarantee he'll be back with the Dodgers. Martin's slipped a bit from 2009 to 2010, and after making $5.05 million last year, a likely arbitration raise would be around $6 million. It's the toughest decision for the team, potentially parting ways with Martin, who was the face of the franchise going into the 2008 season. The Dodgers have until Dec. 2 to make a decision on the catcher.

World Series Odds for 2011
The gambling site Bodog.com announced their 2011 World Series odds with the Yankees (4-1) and Phillies (6-1) scheduled to meet in the Fall Classic. The Giants (10-1) and Red Sox (10-1) will battle for the League Championship Series and the Cardinals (14-1) and Rays (14-1) will make the Division Series. The Dodgers ate just a pip above the middle of the 32-team scrum at 22-1. The Royals (125-1) and Pirates (150-1) will defend their last place spots. Just as a reminder, the Giants opened 2010 at 25-1.

Dodger Blue Notes ...LHP Clayton Kershaw missed out on Super-2 status, which would have made him eligible for salary arbitration and a bigger raise, by 17 days. He will be eligible for arbitration after the 2011 season. ...Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka might get "posted" by his team, and the player reportedly ranks the Dodgers among his preferred teams. To get negotiating rights, the Dodgers would need to make the highest closed bid, and then they'd have 30 days to sign him. Nishioka hit .346/.423/.482 for the Chiba Lotte Marines, and he became the first player since Ichiro Suzuki to go over 200 hits in the 144-game Japanese regular season. ...Center fielder Matt Kemp, a 2009 Gold Glove winner, did not get a single vote in the Bull James Fielding Bible Awards. No Dodger won a Gold Glove. Adrian Beltré won two Gold Gloves with Seattle.

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