Hiroki Kuroda reached free agency following the 2012 season – facing questions about whether he would return to the New York Yankees for another season, return to his native Japan, or even potentially retire. Kuroda would ultimately end up signing a one year, $15 Million deal to return to the Yankees for the 2013 season.
This past winter was again much the same for Kuroda – he’d either return to the Yankees for one more year or call it a career. Retirement apparently weighed heavily on Kuroda’s mind for much of the winter, as he gave it “more thought than ever before”, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Kuroda instead elected to return to the team for one more season (and $16 Million), telling Hoch that he was inspired by a pair of former Yankees – Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
With Andy and Mariano gone, I’m still a year younger than Andy and a few years younger than Mariano. That sort of pushed me to probably go for one more year.
Now 39 years of age, Kuroda has topped the 200 inning mark in each of the past three seasons but reportedly had to overcome some fatigue related concerns towards the tail end of this past season. He’s been highly consistent over his six seasons in the Major Leagues, never posting an ERA above 3.76 or a WHIP higher than 1.216.
Kuroda had apparently developed quite the friendship with Pettitte, according to Hoch. The pair had neighboring lockers, which allowed them to spent countless hours talking pitching and how to approach hitters despite the prevalent language barrier. Kuroda specifically noted that the presence his friend had in the clubhouse will sorely be missed.
With news that Kuroda had been closer than ever before to retiring, it seems likely that 2014 could likely be his final season in the Major Leagues. New York could have three players playing in their final seasons in 2014, with Derek Jeter’s announcement last week that he’ll retire at season’s end and news breaking on Tuesday that Alfonso Soriano could also hang up his cleats.