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Kuroda impresses in start vs. Marlins

Kuroda impresses in start vs. Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Dodgers knew that Hiroki Kuroda might face some adversity during his first season in the United States. Now, they know that he has the ability to handle it.

Pitching for the first time since his worst outing of the spring last week, Kuroda rebounded with five strong innings on Tuesday, overcoming a choppy start to submit his strongest Grapefruit League outing to date.

"He's a quality pitcher," Dodgers bench coach Bob Schaefer said. "It takes the guys time to get used to some of the conditions. It's a new country for him, it's a new culture for him and everything else. But today, he turned it up a notch when he had to. That's impressive."

Kuroda allowed just one run and three hits over his five innings, striking out two and walking none. After allowing two straight hits and a run in the first inning, he then proceeded to retire the next 11 Marlins in a row, needing only 62 pitches to complete his afternoon.

And all that success came after he allowed six runs over three innings in his previous start -- though Kuroda wasn't completely ready to forget his shortcomings.

"I don't think I have that confidence yet," he said through an interpreter. "All the pitches that I was trying to locate, they weren't going there. Until all my pitches go where I want [them] to go, I don't think I'll be fully confident."

The Dodgers had reason to feel secure, even if Kuroda didn't. Their fourth starter now seems back on track, and their closer, Takashi Saito, does as well. Saito pitched his second perfect Grapefruit League inning on Tuesday, showing no ill effects from the right calf tightness that had kept him off the field for the first half of Spring Training.

Then, as if the Dodgers weren't pleased enough with their pitching, 19-year-old top prospect Clayton Kershaw tossed three shutout innings, striking out three.

The result was a 2-1 win over the Marlins, though that much hardly mattered. Leaving Florida with a newfound sense of confidence in Kuroda, the Dodgers now have one less worry on their immediate horizon.

"He didn't panic," Schaefer said. "Some guys will panic and try to overthrow or whatever, but he didn't panic. He was very impressive, and so was Saito and so was Kershaw. With good pitching, you've got a chance."

Anthony DiComo 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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