Reporting from Pittsburgh — Hiroki Kuroda said he won't allow himself to be sad when he takes the mound Friday night in Miami for the start of a three-game series against the Florida Marlins.
Only two days have passed since the death of Takuya Kimura, his friend and longtime teammate on the Hiroshima Carp. Kuroda and Kimura not only played together on the Carp from 1996 to 2005, they were also teammates on Japan's bronze-medal-winning team in the 2004 Olympics.
"Being sad won't bring him back," Kuroda said. "I think the best way to honor him would be for me to give everything on the field like he used to."
Well-known because he shared the same name as one of Japan's most popular actors, Kimura was also famous for his ability to play every position on the field other than pitcher. Kuroda recalled how Kimura caught him when the Carp's starting and backup catchers were unavailable.
Kimura, 37, was in his first season as a fielding and baserunning coach for the Yomiuri Giants.
Kimura collapsed on the field in uniform during pregame fielding drills in Hiroshima last week.
Torre rests five, including Ethier
With the Dodgers playing a day game Thursday after a 10-inning game the previous night, Manager Joe Torre elected to rest five starters — Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Russell Martin and Blake DeWitt.
Of that group, only Ethier was out because of an injury.
Ethier rolled his ankle returning to first base on a pick-off play in the fifth inning of the Dodgers' loss to the Pirates on Wednesday.
Ethier played the remainder of the game but experienced swelling, Torre said. X-rays were negative.
Torre said he didn't know when Ethier would return. Ethier, who was evidently upset by the way he was portrayed in a recent story in The Times, refused to comment.
Big day for Belliard
The lineup that Torre jokingly called a "split squad" did a lot more than the regular lineup, pounding the Pirates for 16 hits in a 10-2 victory.
The central figure in the Dodgers' offense explosion was Ronnie Belliard, who fell a single short of a cycle and drove in four runs.
His two-run home run in the fifth inning doubled the Dodgers' lead to 4-0.
Belliard had a brutal spring, batting only .162. He was hitless in his two pinch-hit at-bats in the first two regular-season games.
"I think it was just timing stuff," said Belliard, crediting the work he's done in the cages with hitting coach Don Mattingly.
Belliard was the Dodgers' starting second baseman in the playoffs last year, but lost a position battle to DeWitt this spring.
Belliard said he has accepted his new role and that he would try to make the most of his situation.
Already, Belliard is drawing praise from Torre for the extra time he's spent in the weight room.
"He's been working hard," Torre said. "I think he's conditioned … himself [extremely well] the last couple of weeks, maybe three weeks. He's still doing it. I just think it's a product of that."
The Dodgers avoided a near-disaster in the sixth inning, when Matt Kemp and Reed Johnson nearly collided in left-center chasing down a line drive by Bobby Crosby. Kemp barely missed crashing into Johnson and caught the ball.
"That one scared the hell out of me," Torre said.