HIROSHIMA – Hiroki Kuroda made his second preseason start of the spring on Sunday, when he allowed two runs over six innings in an exhibition against the Orix Buffaloes.
The 40-year-old Hiroshima Carp right-hander, who is pitching in Japan for the first time after seven big league seasons, allowed five hits and struck out four. Rookie Carp skipper Koichi Ogata was not concerned that Kuroda surrendered a two-run home run to Tony Blanco.
“There was a method to his pitching, so I’m not worried,” Ogata said after Hiroshima’s 9-2 win at Mazda Stadium.
Blanco, who joined Orix over the winter from the Yokohama BayStars, belted a two-seam fastball, the first pitch he saw from Kuroda in the fourth.
“A pitch intended to run in on his hands hung in the middle of the zone,” said Kuroda, who went to the same pitch to set Blanco up for a strikeout in the sixth inning.
Kuroda made an adjustment and got the ball a little more inside against Blanco, who fouled it off before missing at a split-fingered fastball for strike three.
When looking for a double play in the third inning with no outs and a runner on first, Kuroda threw a two-seamer inside. The pitch fouled off catcher Hikaru Ito’s shin after the ball ran so deep inside he made contact out of the zone.
“That happens when I get that kind of good movement,” Kuroda said. “If I can establish that pitch, right-handed batters will have to think about that inside pitch.”
Having retired all 13 batters he faced this spring, Kuroda didn’t allow a hit until Takahiro Okada singled with two outs in the second inning.
“I’m going to produce, regardless of who is pitching,” Okada said. “He threw me a fat first pitch and I wanted extra bases, but my aim was poor.”
Kuroda is expected to make his final preseason tune-up next Sunday against the Japan Series champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.