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Comeback for Kuroda begins Sunday

Comeback for Kuroda begins Sunday

LOS ANGELES -- Everything is in place for Hiroki Kuroda to make his return to the mound Sunday for a start against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

On Thursday, Kuroda had a successful bullpen session, two days after he allowed one unearned run on five hits in five innings during a rehab start for Class A Inland Empire.

All this after Kuroda suffered through one of the most frightening moments of the season -- a line drive to the head on Aug. 15 in Arizona. Surprisingly, Kuroda suffered only a minor concussion and is set to pitch less than one month after his injury.

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Even more surprising, though, is how Kuroda doesn't show any hesitancy to step back on the mound.

"As far as I'm concerned I don't think it is," Kuroda said when asked if it would be difficult to pitch again in the Majors.

"I hope it won't be difficult because I've heard so many stories about other pitchers who've been hit in the head in the past and could not go back and had to end his baseball career."

Kuroda shouldn't have to worry about any unwillingness to stand tall on the mound while batters take cracks at his pitches, either.

The first pitch he threw Tuesday got drilled right back up the middle -- so check that scenario off the list of things Kuroda must overcome during his first start back.

"That pitch, a lot of people make a big deal out of it, but it was a line drive to the center fielder," Kuroda said. "It wasn't really close to me. It was probably above my head. It came toward me, but it was above my head, so it wasn't a big deal."

If the Dodgers get the pre-injury Kuroda, then their pitching staff should get a fairly large lift.

Kuorda (5-5, 4.08 ERA) hasn't lost a decision since July 8, and the Dodgers have won five of the past six games Kuroda has started.

Kuroda's return to the Dodgers' rotation also forces manager Joe Torre to make a decision about what to do with Vicente Padilla.

Padilla was scheduled to start Sunday against the Padres, but now he might back up Kuroda in case anything goes awry, or he could get the call to start Monday.

"If [Padilla] pitches Monday then everybody gets pushed back," Torre said.

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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