Dodgers interested in Japanese pitcher

Dodgers closer Takashi Saito joined two club officials in a Nov. 20 face-to-face meeting in Tokyo with pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and Kuroda's Japanese agent, according to various sources. It indicated the Dodgers are serious about signing Kuroda, a veteran right-hander for the Hiroshima Carp who filed for free agency earlier this month and announced his intentions to come to the United States.

The right-hander is said to throw a mid-90s fastball, slider, forkball and "shuuto," which resembles a reverse slider. Kuroda has a 103-89 record with a 3.69 earned-run average in 11 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp. He had his best season in 2006, when he was 13-6 with a 1.85 ERA.

Kuroda, 32, also met with Acey Kohrogi, the Dodgers' Asian operations director, and Japan-based Dodgers scout Keiichi Kojima, both of whom were instrumental in signing Saito to a minor-league contract two winters ago after he had spent 14 seasons with the Yokohama Bay Stars. Kohrogi, Kojima and Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White have scouted Kuroda extensively during the Japanese Central League season.

The Dodgers are not the only one to have met with Kuroda. Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren flew to Tokyo for a meeting with Kuroda and the Mariners have been widely reported to be Kuroda's preferred team because of the presence of countrymen Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johjima, who would be Kuroda's primary catcher in Seattle.

But Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote a source with knowledge of the situation said that Kuroda actually prefers the Dodgers for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is his close, long-standing friendship with Saito.

The pitcher won't come cheap.

The Mariners reportedly have offered Kuroda a three-year contract worth about $30 million and Arizona has offered a three-year deal worth a reported $27 million. Kuroda isn't expected to sign anywhere before next week's winter meetings.

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