Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has a flashback moment – LA Times

By Jim Peltz and Dylan Hernandez
Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Phoenix

His three innings of work completed Sunday, pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was icing his arm in the Dodgers clubhouse at Camelback Ranch when he was delivered a grim reminder.

Kuroda watched on television as teammate Reed Johnson hit a one-hop grounder that struck Texas Rangers pitcher Michael Kirkman on the side of the face, instantly bringing to mind how Kuroda was struck in the head by a line drive at nearby Chase Field on Aug. 15 in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The injury sidelined Kuroda for three weeks and later led to a herniated disk in his neck. But the Japanese right-hander, who was the Dodgers’ opening-day starter last year, said Sunday that the problems were behind him and that “my overall physical condition is really good.”

Kuroda, 35, made his second start of the spring Sunday and gave up two unearned runs in the first inning to the Rangers. But he blanked Texas in his next two innings and overall gave up only two hits, walked one and struck out one.

“What I’m trying to do is gradually bring myself to a peak” in terms of performance “as close to my first start in the regular season as possible,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “That’s really hard to do, but I’m trying my best.”

Kirkman promptly left after being struck but walked off the field under his own power.

“There’s no reason to leave him in there; you have to be precautionary,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said.

Ortiz shines

One of the Dodgers camp’s greatest surprises so far has been former San Francisco Giants standout Russ Ortiz. A candidate to be the Dodgers’ fifth starter, Ortiz has pitched five scoreless innings in the exhibition season.

This is Ortiz’s third spring training as a non-roster player. He made the Giants roster out of camp in 2007 and the Houston Astros roster last year. (He sat out the 2008 season while recovering from an elbow operation.)

The 35-year-old said that he’s a much different person than he was at the peak of his career. From 1999 to 2004, Ortiz won 99 games with the Giants and Atlanta Braves. He was an All-Star in 2003, when he was 21-7 with the Braves.

“It’s been a humbling experience to have to come into camp and make a team,” he said. “At one time in my career, I felt I was on top of the world. Next thing I know, I can barely find a job. I’m a Christian man but the game, for a long time, was the thing I was known for. Once I was released and could barely find a job, that changed.”

And finally

The Dodgers squad that played two games in Taiwan returned to Phoenix on Sunday night after beating a team of Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars, 11-1, to earn a split of their goodwill series. Manny Ramirez, James Loney and Taiwan native Chin-lung Hu each had three hits.

Updated March 14, 2010