Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Carp pitcher Kuroda announces decision to retire after Japan Series

Kyodo

Hiroki Kuroda, who this season won his 200th career game in top-flight pro baseball, said Tuesday that he will hang up his spikes at the end of this season.

The 41-year-old Kuroda has a 124-105 record in Nippon Professional Baseball and went 79-79 in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. In 2015, he turned down major league offers, leaving millions of dollars on the table to fulfill a promise and return to the Hiroshima Carp, the ballclub he started his career with in 1997.

His final act will be in the Japan Series, which starts at Mazda Stadium on Saturday against the Pacific League champion Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

“Winning the league championship and advancing to the Japan Series is one big reason for this,” Kuroda told a press conference at a Hiroshima hotel. “Because I’m going out after the ultimate season, I have no regrets.”

“This had been constantly in my mind the past two to three years. It became tangible in September when we won the pennant. I had thought about announcing it after the Japan Series. But that next game might be my last, and I felt I had to tell my teammates and the fans who have cheered me on before that.”

Kuroda broke the news to his teammates before they began their first practice ahead of the Japan Series.

“The Japan Series will be the end. I’ve decided to hang it up,” Kuroda said. “I’ve been shown an excellent dream with an excellent team.

“And now I want to go out with a smile on my face, all of us celebrating a championship pouring beer on each other.”

The Fighters, however, will be doing their best to thwart that fairy tale ending, including first baseman and cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, a native of Hiroshima Prefecture.

“He is a true superstar,” Nakata said of Kuroda. “Personally, I’m happy because I think I’m going to have a chance to stand in against him.”

When he first took the mound at Mazda Stadium in a 2015 preseason game, fans stood throughout the park and shouted in unison, “Hiroki Kuroda, welcome home.”

And now Kuroda would like to reward them for their support.

“I really received a lot of encouragement when I returned last year,” he said. “I want to compete so that I can repay them in the form of a Japan championship.”

After going 11-8 with a 2.55 ERA in 2015, Kuroda decided to play another season.

He went 10-8 with a 3.09 ERA in the regular season and took the loss on Friday in the Central League Climax Series Final Stage against the Yokohama BayStars, when the Carp dropped their only game so far in this year’s postseason.