Dodgers Introduce New Japanese Pitcher

The Dodgers newest addition, Hiroki Kuroda, was introduced to the media Sunday at Dodger Stadium and the 33-in-February pitcher also paused for a photo op on the pitcher's mound, wearing a Dodger jersey over his shirt and tie. If he pitches that way next summer, it raises the politeness of the Japanese people to a new level.

The Dodgers held a Stadium Club introduction of Kuroda to media from near and far, on a Sunday afternoon. The turnout included the Dodgers' top brass and Kuroda's sizable entourage from both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Dodger owner Frank McCourt praised the Dodgers' Asian operations department for pulling off the coup, mentioning the work of director Acey Kohrogi, manager Curtis Yung, Japan-based scout Keiichi Kojima, cross-checker Paul Fryer and traveling secretary Scott Akasaki.

The six-foot, one-inch, 190-pound right-hander will become the seventh Japanese player in Dodger history, joining Hideo Nomo (1995-98, 2002-04), Kazuhisa Ishii (2002-04), Masao Kida (2003-04), Norihiro Nakamura (2005), Dave Roberts (2002-04) and Saito (2006-07). Earlier this month, the team announced a deal with right-handed pitcher Robert Boothe, the club's first amateur signing from Japan.

The Dodgers and Kuroda agreed to a three-year, $35.3 million contract but he pointed out that the money wasn't the main thing he was looking for but acknowledged that with the kind of money he'll earn, there will be some pressure. "The only thing I'm thinking about is going out and pitching my game, doing the best I can," he said through an interpreter.

Steve Hilliard, Kuroda's agent, said his client could have made more money by signing elsewhere. Both Seattle and Kansas City offered more money and/or a longer contract but he chose the Dodgers.

"In the end, main reason behind Hiroki's decision was what city and what organization he and his family were going to feel the most comfortable with," Hilliard said. "You hear this a lot, the cliche that it wasn't about the money. In this case, that was very true. There were more lucrative offers he turned down because he felt the most comfortable in Los Angeles." Colletti signed Kuroda without seeing him pitch in person. He left that to Logan White, the assistant general manager. White saw enough tape of Kuroda and watched him in person enough and gave him his seal of approval.

"I put my reputation on the guy," said White. "He's legit."

White's scouting report says, "He has a very good delivery, an easy arm motion. He throws from a three-quarters angle. He runs his fastball anywhere from 89-95 miles per hour and stays around 93. He has a slider/cutter at 89 that has a lot of sharp, crisp bite. His out pitch is what he calls a forkball that has real diving, late action at the right-handed hitter.

Kuruda was as complimentary to the Dodgers as they were to him. "I haven't even pitched over here yet, he said. For a team to value me that highly, it's certainly because of the players who have come over here [from Japan] and succeeded. I'm very thankful for that. In Japanese terms, it's an unbelievable contract."

Kuroda spent the past 11 seasons with the Hiroshima Tokyo 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, and was a Japanese All-Star each of the past three years.

Colletti 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.

"I'd still like to add another player, a reliever or two," Colletti said. "We've got some other things we need to accomplish. Pitching's always going to be the key component."

Regarding third base, he said: "We've explored it for a while, softly. I've got faith in Nomar [Garciaparra] in bouncing back. I've got faith in Andy LaRoche. We've got internal options."