Curveball remains work in progress for Kuroda

Curveball remains work in progress for Kuroda

Curveball remains work in progress for Kuroda
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hiroki Kuroda's spring ERA moved closer to six in Thursday's start, but the Dodgers' No. 4 starter sounded no real alarms after allowing five runs in six-plus innings against the Rockies.

"I have a little bit more work to do," said Kuroda, who threw 75 pitches during the game and 20 more in the bullpen afterward because manager Don Mattingly wanted to get work for some relievers. "I think I'll get there when the regular season starts because of the emotion."

Kuroda said most of the eight hits he allowed were off the curveball that has become his special project this spring.

"I threw more than 10 of them," Kuroda said. "If I have the right feel for them during the season, I'm going to throw them. The percentage will depend on how I feel that day."

With the start of the season a week away, the Dodgers are likely to open with an 11-man pitching staff, because they don't need a fifth starter until April 12. Kuroda will follow Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly in the starting rotation.

In the bullpen, Jonathan Broxton added another scoreless inning Thursday, and he's the closer. Hong-Chih Kuo, having his most impressive and healthy spring ever, is the primary setup man. Matt Guerrier figures to be the workhorse middleman, although he allowed an RBI triple and an inherited runner to score in a continuation of his disappointing spring. Kenley Jansen has looked as good as he did in last year's callup, and Blake Hawksworth figures to be the multiple-innings replacement for Jeff Weaver.

The final two spots shake out like this: Mike MacDougal essentially has won one spot as a non-roster righty with closer stuff and experience. For the final spot, lefty Scott Elbert is back on track after a rocky beginning of spring, and he seems to have the pole position, with right-hander Travis Schlichting and non-roster veteran Lance Cormier close behind. Ramon Troncoso and Ron Mahay have been inconsistent.

And however the staff lines up on Opening Day, it figures to change shortly afterward, as reliever Vicente Padilla (forearm surgery) and fifth starter Jon Garland (oblique) are making big strides in their recoveries.

If Garland isn't ready for April 12, the options to start are John Ely and Tim Redding, who both figure to start the season at Triple-A.