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DODGERS FYI

Hiroki Kuroda tests pitch with reservations

Right-hander throws cutter for the first time this spring — with Don Mattingly in the batter's box. 'I had to be careful,' Kuroda says.

February 19, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers reliever Hiroki Kuroda has been developing a curveball during the off-season.
Dodgers reliever Hiroki Kuroda has been developing a curveball during… (Morry Gash / Associated…)

Reporting from Phoenix — Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda threw his cutter for the first time this spring in a bullpen session Saturday and when he threw it, he did so with restraint.

You couldn't blame him. His manager was standing in the batter's box.

"I had to be careful," Kuroda said, laughing.

To get a better idea of what his pitchers are throwing, Don Mattingly was standing next to the plate during several bullpen sessions. He said that was something he started to do when managing in the Arizona Fall League.

"I can tell, 'That will get a batter out,' " he said.

Mattingly said he is particularly interested to see whether pitches have late movement, something that's easier to do when he's standing in the batter's box.

As was the case when he batted as a player, Mattingly stood in the box for left-handed hitters.

In the box for right-handers, Mattingly said, "You don't know how to get out of the way."

Asked whether any of the pitchers made him feel uneasy, Mattingly mentioned Vicente Padilla.

"Padilla can scare you a bit," he said. "I hope he's not mad at me."

Among the pitches Mattingly saw up close was the curveball Kuroda is trying to develop.

Last spring, Kuroda tried to add a changeup to his arsenal, but the project was abandoned early in camp. Kuroda said he's more optimistic about his curveball.

"I'll throw it during the exhibition season and see how it feels," he said.

Kuroda said he has received tips from Clayton Kershaw, but that he learned the curveball grip over the winter by watching videos.

Kuo doesn't want limitations

Left-handed reliever Hong-Chih Kuo said he understands why the Dodgers are being careful with him. But if he could have his way, Kuo said he would want them to ignore his medical history and use him whenever they need him. If that's two or three consecutive games, so be it.

"When the season gets started, I don't want to hold back anymore," he said. "I'm trying to be a normal guy."

The Dodgers have other thoughts, not wanting to take any chances of hurting injuring Kuo, who has had four elbow operations and who set a franchise record by posting a 1.20 earned-run average last season.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said that Kuo probably won't be used in consecutive games early in the season. Kuo pitched in consecutive games three times last season, the first time in August.

"Obviously, the early part, I would anticipate him being more of an every-other-day type of guy," Honeycutt said. "You monitor from there."

Kuo hasn't thrown a bullpen session in camp yet.

Kuo was a regular at Dodger Stadium over the winter, showing up four times a week to play catch with assistant trainer Nick Conte, a former minor league catcher.

Weather is not a concern

Rain fell Saturday at Camelback Ranch and is expected to fall again Sunday.

Mattingly said he wasn't worried about that, even though the Dodgers were among the last teams to open camp and their first exhibition game is only six days away.

"The main thing is the throwing and they'll be able to do that," Mattingly said.

Pitchers who threw their bullpen sessions Saturday did so in the batting cages, which have a roof.

Belisario update

Right-hander Ronald Belisario is moving closer to reporting to spring training, according to a newspaper in his native Venezuela.

Lider de Deportes reported that Belisario is expected to receive his passport Monday and has a visa appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas next week. Belisario previously told the publication that he couldn't report to spring training in time because he lost his passport.

Belisario's agent, Paul Kinzer, told The Times last week that he thought Belisario had more serious issues than that and that he didn't expect his client to be able to gain legal entry into the U.S. this year.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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