By Sweeny Murti
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Hiroki Kuroda made his first start of the spring Wednesday, giving up 3 hits and 3 runs in his 2 innings of work.  Kuroda comes to the Yankees after four years with the Dodgers where he compiled a 3.45 ERA, the best mark of any Japanese born pitcher with at least 12 career starts in the major leagues.

With help from translator Kenji Nimura, here are some of Kuroda’s comments after his spring training start against the Rays:

On today’s outing:  “Physically I felt fine. The most important thing that I wanted to accomplish was the feeling for the real game and I think I was able to do that, so I’m happy.”

On spring training goals:  “The top of the list will be to stay healthy.  The second will be to improve all my pitches and work on my fastball and breaking ball, just overall to improve all my pitches.  It depends on the season, but usually it takes the whole spring training before everything is to the level that I need it to be in the regular season.”

On adjusting to the Yankees:  “I think I’m well adjusted to this team right now.”

On the 2-run triple by TB’s Stephen Vogt:  “Russell (Martin) was asking for another pitch, but I wanted to throw a backdoor slider and I just didn’t locate the pitch really well.

Especially to a left-handed hitter, I just wanted to show them that I had this kind of pitch and I wanted to work on my backdoor slider but it didn’t turn out to be the pitch that I wanted to throw.”

On being the only pitcher besides CC Sabathia to be guaranteed a rotation spot by Joe Girardi:  “When I was in Japan and also when I came here, I don’t think I spent a spring training without worrying if I’ll make the rotation.  So even if he says something like that I don’t think it’s guaranteed.  And I’m always competitive, I’m always competing for my spot.

“They haven’t seen me throughout the season and they don’t know what kind of pitcher I am, so I think I have to prove something to everyone.  At the same time I just want to contribute as much as possible to this team.”

On meaning of results in spring training:  “It’s always important to leave with good results, but at the same time I wanted to work on my pitches and make sure I had all my pitches so I think I was able to accomplish that today.”

On giving up three runs in spring training game:  “I know that I said that I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and that was that I wanted to throw all my pitches and make sure I have them.  But at the same time as a starting pitcher, or any kind of pitcher, it’s better not to give up any runs.  Obviously I was disappointed and I hope to get better.”

On new challenge of pitching in American League:  “Not just this year and the fact that I moved to the American league.  Of course it’s a big challenge, but every year there’s a challenge for me in some form or some way.  I think this is an added challenge, but this is not something new.”

On so much media attention for a spring training game:  “In the future I’d like to say a lot of good things about my outings.  Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be this way this time.  I’d like to get more people so that I can pitch better and give you guys good news. (laughing).”

Joe Girardi said this week that Kuroda is the type of pitcher who throws everything but the kitchen sink—fastballs, curveballs, cutters, sliders, and changes speeds.  Switching to a more offensive league will definitely be a test.  But Kuroda appears to have some veteran savvy, perhaps like we’ve seen in the past with Orlando Hernandez and Mike Mussina in their later years.

Kuroda is essentially replacing A.J. Burnett in the rotation, so the Yankees are likely looking for a little more consistency.  In fact, since he is basically occupying an $18.5 million salary slot (Kuroda’s own $10 million dollar contract plus the $8.5 million of Burnett’s deal this year), the Yankees are probably counting on it.

Sweeny Murti