Get out the pompoms: How to try to make Hiroki Kuroda stay
So here's what you do: Get signs and banners that read "One More Year!" And then you hold them up every time Hiroki Kuroda walks off the mound Thursday night. Maybe start it as a chant. Plead a little.
Think it can't work?
It already has once.
Kuroda is scheduled to start Thursday in the Dodgers' final home game of the season. And all indications are that it will be his final start in Chavez Ravine.
The growing sentiment is that Kuroda is going to return to Hiroshima, where he pitched his previous 11 years before joining the Dodgers in 2008, for one final season before retiring.
Not that it has to happen. The Dodgers need him in their rotation next season and General Manager Ned Colletti has said he wants Kuroda back.
Kuroda, as is his way, isn't saying what he's going to do, but he plans to take some time at the end of the season to decide.
He was in a similar position with Hiroshima in 2006, able to become a free agent and sign with a team in the major leagues.
But the fans in Hiroshima, a small-market team in Japan, packed the ballpark in his last start at home. They held up signs asking him to return. Banners that read "Please Stay!" Cheered him throughout.
And he came back for one more year.
What if that effort was duplicated at Dodger Stadium on Thursday? Give me a "K!''
"I'd be surprised if that happened,"’ he told The Times' Dylan Hernandez, with a laugh.
Kuroda remains a highly effective pitcher. This season, he is 12-16 with a career-low 3.19 ERA.
"He's pitched much better than his record," Colletti said.
The Dodgers have only three established starting pitchers returning next season -– Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly. Even though he'll be 37 next spring, the Dodgers need Kuroda back.
As it is, they might have to look at starting the season with rookie Nathan Eovaldi in the rotation. If Kuroda leaves as expected, the Dodgers would probably have to sign or trade for another starter.
Kuroda earned $12 million this season, and it would probably take a similar amount for him to return. It's doubtful, however, this will be about the money. He'd make substantially less in Hiroshima.
This is more about commitment and obligation to a team and city that stood by him, that showered him with affection.
Get the signs out. A little duplication couldn't hurt.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Hiroki Kuroda. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images.