Kuroda has made seamless switch to AL

04/03/2013 6:08 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Hiroki Kuroda has made the transition from the National League to the American with ease.(AP)
One of the toughest transitions in Major League Baseball over the last couple of decades is a pitcher going from pitching in the National League to the American League. In this day and age, one would think that would not be an issue, but the American League, and especially the American League East, has some of the toughest lineups in the game to navigate.

Hiroki Kuroda came to the Yankees last season from the Dodgers and did not fall victim to that dubious distinction. The transition seemed seamless for the pitcher that can just flat out pitch. In fact, for a lot of the season in 2012, he was the Yankees' best starter. He threw a career-high 219.2 innings, while ending up with an impressive 16-11 record with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts.

"It doesn't matter what league you're in, as long as you're throwing strikes and throwing the ball where it needs to be, you're going to get guys out," Chris Stewart said of Kuroda. "He came over and it's not just like he's coming to the American League, but the American League East last year and he was able to do that with success. It just shows how good he can be."

Kuroda, who turned 38 on February 10, did not show any signs of slowing down either in Spring Training. In four starts, he went 1-2 with a 1.53 ERA, allowing only three earned runs in 17.2 innings, while striking out 15.

The comfort of knowing that Kuroda is on the mound after a tough Opening Day loss is huge for the Yankees. Sabathia, now 0-2 with a 7.42 ERA in five career Opening Day starts with the Yankees, has a history of the slow start, but always heats up with the weather. Kuroda and Andy Pettitte behind him in the rotation make this a formidable one-two-three punch.

Kuroda comes into Wednesday evening's matchup after pitching ridiculously well here in the Bronx in 2012. Even though he was only 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA on the road last season, he was 11-6 at home in 19 starts with a 2.72 ERA and actually allowed one less earned run (40 ER-41 ER) in 45 more home innings (132.1 IP - 87.1 IP) than away from the Bronx.

One thing that Kuroda did prove last season is that he can not only pitch well under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, but he can come up big in very big situations. It all comes down to the fact that he's very business-like in his approach to the game. Kuroda is the ultimate professional and he treats his job as such.

"I don't have personal goals in terms of numbers," Kuroda said of his sixth Major League season. "I want to make sure I go out there every time I pitch and contribute for the team."

Stewart, who only caught three Kuroda games last season with terrific results, is catching him for his first start of the season. In those three appearances in 2012, Kuroda threw 21.1 innings to his new full-time battery-mate allowing only four earned runs for a sparkling 1.69 ERA.

Stewart continued to rave about Kuroda before the game saying, "He's able to locate the ball pretty well with all of his pitches. He keeps hitters off balance. He's doesn't really go out trying to strike a guy out, he's trying to get you out. He's able to miss a lot of bats doing that. I wouldn't say any of his pitches are off the charts. Every one is really good though and good enough to get a lot of guys out."

The Yankees are trying to turn all of the bad vibes from Opening Day into a positive. Kuroda's presence on the mound certainly gives them an edge in turning their fortunes and getting the team back on the right track. comments