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Daily Dodger in review: Hiroki Kuroda earns a repeat performance but at what price?

November 8, 2010 |  2:03 pm

HIROKI KURODA, 35, starting pitcher

Final 2010 stats: 11-13, 3.39 ERA, 159 strikeouts, 48 walks, 1.16 WHIP in 193 2/3 innings.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: More evidence that a won-loss record is not always indicative of how well a starter pitches. And Kuroda pitched very well, and actually grades out slightly higher than Chad Billingsley as the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter last season.

When he’s on, which he was more than not, he’s extremely tough. Can throw a variety of pitches for strikes. Quickly erased any lingering doubts about returning to form after getting nailed in the head with a line drive in 2009. Was actually his best overall season as a Dodger.

The bad: Nothing particularly glaring. Had a slightly rough April (4.42 ERA), but otherwise was pretty consistent all season. And stayed off the disabled list for the first time.

What’s next: One of the more challenging tasks for the Dodgers. Certainly, they’d love to have him back. The big question, of course, is at what price? He made $15.4 million last season. If they offer him arbitration, he’ll get more than that. A lot of money for a pitcher who turns 36 in February. Plus, he’s been mum on what he wants to do, and some believe he would like to end his career back in Japan.

The take:The Dodgers need to make every reasonable effort to bring Kuroda back. He still has excellent stuff, is a tremendous competitor, and although his English is not what you would like after three seasons, is well liked and respected by teammates and coaches.

The uncertainty is over how long you sign him. If he wants a three-year deal, it’s probably too risky. Not for the kind of money he’ll demand at his age. One year would be great, but two might be where the Dodgers realistically have to draw a line.

The Dodgers, however, currently have only three starting pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lillyand Billingsley). Getting Kuroda back would give them a superior four starters. This will come down to a question of that ol` Dodger favorite --- money, and on both sides.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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