PHOENIX (AP) - Hiroki Kuroda is back on track and making a late bid to be the Los Angeles Dodgers' opening day starter for a second straight year.
Kuroda gave up one hit over 5 1-3 innings in his most impressive outing of the spring, striking out two and walking two to help the Dodgers to a 3-3 tie with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles manager Joe Torre is expected to announce his opening day starter this week and Kuroda is among four pitchers being considered.
``What I think is the most important thing is to throw throughout the full season, so at this moment I'm not even thinking about it,' Kuroda said. ``Whatever role Joe gives me I'll try to fulfill. I'm not too concerned.'
Kuroda's only trouble came in the third when he walked two. The only hit he allowed was Jack Cust's one-out single in the fifth.
After getting tagged for seven hits and three earned runs in four innings against San Diego in his previous start, Kuroda had no problems against Oakland while lowering his spring ERA to 2.51. He retired the first six batters he faced, and after walking two in the third, got out of the jam by getting Coco Crisp to ground out to first and Rajai Davis to pop out to second.
``Kuroda was really smooth,' Torre said. ``I don't think he tried to rush. He just kept his composure and eventually he was able to do what he needed to do.'
A.J. Ellis had an RBI and scored a run for Los Angeles, which led 3-0 before Oakland rallied.
The A's didn't get a hit until Cust's one-out single to center in the fifth. Kuroda, who is entering the final year of a three-year contract with Los Angeles, retired Adam Rosales and Cliff Pennington to end the inning then got Crisp on a comebacker to open the sixth.
``I thought it was good but there were so many batters I faced that I missed with my first-pitch strike' Kuroda said. ``I was trying to be too careful. But it was very encouraging. I was able to make my game today and felt good overall.'
The effort could earn Kuroda a second straight opening day start. Torre will choose from a group that also includes lefty Clayton Kershaw and right-handers Chad Billingsley and Vincente Padilla.
Kurt Suzuki homered for the A's and Cust went 2 for 2 with a pair of walks.
Oakland's Gio Gonzalez strengthened his bid for the A's fifth starter's spot after giving up only one run and two hits in 4 1-3 innings. His only problem came in the second when he allowed a leadoff single to Casey Blake and issued a pair of walks before Ellis hit a sacrifice fly to right.
But Trevor Cahill, a starter last season, struggled in relief and didn't help his chances of retaining a spot in the A's rotation. Cahill gave up a run-scoring single to Reed Johnson in the fifth and an RBI groundout to Doug Mientkiewicz in the sixth.
``Both showed flashes of pitching good, but both had wild speeds,' A's manager Bob Geren said. ``Both have stuff to get out of jams, but it's best if they don't get in the jams in the first place.'
Suzuki hit his second homer of the spring off with two outs in the sixth off Los Angeles reliever Ramon Troncoso. The A's added two more runs in the seventh when Eric Chavez scored on a wild pitch and Rosales drove in Ryan Sweeney with a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: The A's acquired RHP Edwar Ramirez from the Rangers in a trade that sent INF Gregorio Petit to Texas. Ramirez, who spent the past three seasons with the New York Yankees, owns a 6-2 career record with a 5.22 ERA with 116 strikeouts and 93 hits in 98 1-3 innings and 96 appearances. ... Oakland 2B Mark Ellis (hamstring) could be back in the A's lineup Thursday, manager Bob Geren said. ... Los Angeles C Russell Martin, out since March 7 with a groin injury, will catch in a minor league game Thursday. Martin has been taking batting practice and is ahead of schedule in his recovery from the injury. ... Chavez singled in the seventh and is 2 for 22 over his last seven games.
The Associated Press News Service
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