Hiroki Kuroda has arguably been the most consistent New York Yankees starter over the past two seasons, but the Japanese right-hander was reportedly giving retirement "more thought than ever before" this offseason (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com).
Now 39, it's understandable for Kuroda to be considering retirement. Counting his time in Japan, Kuroda has pitched 17 professional seasons. This year will be No. 18. He did considered retirement, via Hoch's report, but the longevity of both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte ultimately convinced him to negotiate another contract with the Yankees.
Pettitte was 41 years old in 2013, and he posted a 3.74 ERA in 185.1 innings. He missed a few starts along the way, but Pettitte was largely successful in his final year in the league.
Rivera, 43 at the time of his retirement (now 44), was stellar yet again in his final season. He saved 44 games, pitched to a 2.11 ERA and pitched 64.0 innings—his highest mark since the 2009 season.
Their successes in 2013 were key to the Yankees late push to the playoffs, and Kuroda wants to prove that he can continue to produce at this stage of the game as well. That type of motivation should make Yankees fans extremely happy.
Kuroda has been the staple of consistency since general manager Brian Cashman lured him away from the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2012 season. In total, Kuroda owns a record of 27-24 in his two years with the team, along with a 3.31 ERA and 421.0 innings pitched. His 1.164 WHIP over that time is lower than his career mark of 1.179.
With questions surrounding CC Sabathia and the production of the rest of the rotation, manager Joe Girardi will be relying heavily on Kuroda to post similar numbers in 2014. He has never been one to post a strong record, but wins don't mean anything in today's game. If his advanced statistics suggest that he'll keep the Yankees in games, then they'll be just fine.
They certainly have a strong enough offense to put up more than three runs per game when he pitches.
Kuroda may not pitch past this upcoming campaign, but he shouldn't be thinking about that now. Focusing on the task at hand and preparing for the grind of another season is paramount. He and the Yankees have worked with one-year deals each time he has put pen to paper with the team, and that shouldn't alter how he approaches this year.
If it does end up being his last, though, it'll likely be because he pitched well enough to go out on top—just like Pettitte and Rivera.
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