Martin's familiarity with Kuroda a help to Yanks

Martin's familiarity with Kuroda a help to Yanks

Martin's familiarity with Kuroda a help to Yanks
NEW YORK -- The offseason recruitment of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda included a catcher who knew plenty about the right-hander and a manager who knew very little.

Russell Martin, who has been behind the plate for all three of Kuroda's starts with the Yankees this year (including Wednesday night against the Twins), was also a member of the Dodgers from 2008-10. The Yankees acquired Kuroda from Los Angeles this winter.

"They wanted to know what kind of guy he was, what his stuff was like," Martin said of conversations he had with the Yankees' brass during their offseason pursuit of Kuroda. "I told them he's a professional pitcher, and there are days when he goes out there and he's unhittable. The main thing for him is you just have to keep him healthy. The only time I ever saw him struggle in L.A. was when he was banged up."

For manager Joe Girardi, his familiarity with Kuroda was limited to the one game the hurler started against the Yankees (Kuroda allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings for the victory) and some game film.

"The only thing I knew about him was from what I'd seen in the one game he started against us and watching film," Girardi said. "Considering what type of pitcher he was, he's been pretty much a ground-ball pitcher for the good part of his career. He induces more ground balls than fly balls, and that bodes well usually, especially at this ballpark. He was a guy for me who has pitched in pressure-packed situations because of the expectations on him all the time, and pitching in L.A. So he was a good fit."

The language barrier -- Kuroda speaks to the media, and often teammates, through translator Kenji Nimura -- is an obstacle, but Martin said he doesn't have to guide Kuroda entirely through an outing.

"He understands the baseball terms pretty well," Martin said. "And he's the type of guy that prepares himself really well. He has charts of every single hitter and the areas to go to and he writes stuff down. Every meeting before games, he has his sheet with the strike zone broken into nine different squares. He just knows where to attack hitters and what their strengths and weaknesses are. When you have something laid out visually like that, you don't even have to speak to him."