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Kuroda 'lucky to be alive' but feeling good

Kuroda 'lucky to be alive' but feeling good

PHOENIX -- Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who said he is "lucky to be alive" after taking a line drive off the head Saturday, watched Sunday's series finale against the D-backs from the Chase Field visitors clubhouse after spending the night under observation at a local hospital.

Kuroda apparently escaped serious injury and was cleared to fly home with the team after its 9-3 series win. He is presumed to have suffered a concussion, is scheduled for neurological tests on Tuesday and is very doubtful to make his next scheduled start Thursday.

"I really want to go out and pitch," said Kuroda, "but at the same time, I don't want to go without being 100 percent, so it's [manager Joe Torre's] decision."

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Kuroda said he had a "minor headache" and occasionally feels dizzy when he stands up. He said he never had time to duck when Rusty Ryal turned around his 94-mph fastball. Television technicians estimate that there was about two-thirds of a second between the time the pitch left Kuroda's hand and the line drive striking his head with, what trainer Stan Conte estimated, was twice the force necessary to cause a serious head injury.

"It happened so fast, I had no time to react, no time to be scared," he said. "I was scared what would happen next."

Kuroda was struck above the right temple near the hairline by Ryal's liner leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, having shut down the D-backs on two hits over five scoreless innings. He never lost consciousness and there was no bleeding from the injury. He was strapped to a spine board and rushed to a local hospital, where a CT scan revealed no fractures or bleeding. After Sunday's game, his scalp was slightly red, but swelling appeared to be minimal.

Kuroda said he called his wife, who was watching the game on television in Los Angeles, from the ambulance en route to the hospital.

"She thought I died," he said.

Kuroda was visited late on Saturday night by Torre and general manager Ned Colletti, among other club officials. He also received a message from club owner Frank McCourt.

According to club officials, Kuroda saw the replay at the hospital and his only comment was one of surprise at how far the ball caromed off his head, bouncing into the seats behind the D-backs' on-deck circle.

Torre said he still is under the assumption that Kuroda won't be available to make his Thursday night start against the Cubs. Torre said Scott Elbert was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday at Triple-A Albuquerque in case he's needed Thursday.

"The only thing I know from what Stan tells me is we have to monitor him for the next few days," said Torre. "Kuroda said he wants to throw his bullpen Monday. There was nothing off-base with him when he talked last night. It just hit him in the right spot, if there is such a thing."

Torre said he couldn't speculate on how the frightening episode might impact Kuroda psychologically.

"I got hit in the head several times [as a batter] and you have to talk to yourself," Torre said. "Pitchers are in a different situation. Energy-wise, they are going at the guy with a bat. We all do it a little differently.

"To even sit and talk about the possibility of not disabling him now is pretty amazing. The two things I thought when I got to him was, I didn't see blood and I saw his eyes open."

Kuroda dismissed concern about a psychological aftermath.

"When you go to the mound, you don't think the opposing batter will hit your pitch," he said.

Torre said he remains committed to start Charlie Haeger on Monday night and Chad Billingsley on Tuesday night. Billingsley, who missed his last start with a strained left hamstring, said his leg came out of Saturday's bullpen session fine and he'll approach the start as if the injury never happened.

Ryal wrote a note he left for Kuroda, saying he wished the pitcher a speedy recovery.

"There are no hard feelings," said Kuroda. "He didn't have to do that. We are both professional athletes. He was doing his job. I hope he becomes a superstar and I can say I got hit by this hitter."

The Kuroda incident was reminiscent of a more serious injury suffered by another Dodgers pitcher from Japan -- Kazuhisa Ishii, who was struck in the forehead by a line drive off the bat of Houston Astros outfielder Brian Hunter in a twilight game at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 8, 2002. Ishii suffered a fractured skull.

It was the second time a pitcher had been struck in the head by a line drive at Chase Field (then called Bank One Ballpark). Houston's Billy Wagner was drilled in 1998 by Kelly Stinnett.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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