Making his Yankees -- and American League -- debut on Saturday night against the AL East rival Rays, the newly acquired right-hander will surely have his work cut out for him right out of the gate. Kuroda will take on 26-year-old southpaw David Price, who finished second in the AL Cy Young Award race in 2010.
"I was just so flattered and honored to get an offer from such a great team as the Yankees," Kuroda said. "This team not only represents the game of baseball, but it's one of the prominent teams worldwide, in any sport. It's obviously a team that always wins, and I wanted to have a chance to win the championship. That's the reason I came to the Yankees."
New York pulled away for the AL East crown last year, while the Rays snuck past the Red Sox to steal the AL's Wild Card berth on the memorable final day of the regular season. Tampa Bay pulled out a thrilling 7-6 comeback win on Friday in the regular-season opener at Tropicana Field.
"Just about every team you play in this division, it's going to be a postseason baseball game," Price said. "It's Game 1 and Game 2, but it feels like it's Game 163."
Price and Kuroda have taken divergent paths to Saturday's showdown, as Price -- the No. 1 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft -- worked his way up through Tampa Bay's system. Kuroda was brought in on a one-year, $10 million deal after spending the last four seasons with the Dodgers as one of the National League's most underrated starters.
"I think it'll be an easy transition," Kuroda said. "I made the transition from Japan to the U.S. first -- it's in the same country, so I don't think it'll be that much of an adjustment."
Price has won at least 10 games in each of his last three seasons -- including a career-high 19 in 2010 -- while Kuroda has also tallied double-digit win totals in each of the last two years.
The two teams also boast some of the deepest lineups in the AL. New York led the Majors in home runs last season with 222 and was second in runs (867) and third in slugging percentage (.444). The Rays don't pack the same punch, but they've got weapons from top to bottom, including Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.
"It's always a work in progress," Price said. "You're never going to have a finished product in sports. This is something we can always build on. We can continue to grow and get better. Hopefully, that's what we'll do."
Yankees: A-Rod comes out swinging
After going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored on Friday, third baseman Alex Rodriguez has hit safely in all eight Opening Day games he has played with the Yankees. In those contests, he is batting .424 (14-for-33) with five doubles, two homers and nine RBIs.
Yankees catcher Russell Martin spent five seasons with the Dodgers before coming to New York last year, so he has experience catching Kuroda.
"On his good days, he can reach up to 95 [mph] with good movement on his fastball and good two-seam sinking action," Martin said. "He's got a cutter that he uses and a curveball that he uses as well; it's not necessarily a strikeout curveball, but he can throw it for strikes. He's got a slider and a splitty; his splitty is pretty much his strikeout pitch with his fastball. He's got good command, and you'll see -- he's pretty good."
Rays: Bullpen ready to step up
Having placed closer Kyle Farnsworth on the disabled list with a strained right elbow, the Rays are expected to handle the ninth inning by committee.
"It's just part of it," Price said. "Everybody's going to have a key player on their team that's going to go down throughout this year at some point. We have to have guys who are going to step up. [J.P. Howell] is going to have to step up, [Joel Peralta] -- all those guys. [Josh Lueke] is going to have to come in and do a good job for us. It's a chance for guys to kind of put their faces on the map for us -- [Burke Badenhop] and them -- and this is a good chance for them to shine."
Luke Scott, who spent the first seven seasons of his big league career with the Astros and Orioles, made his Rays debut on Friday and grounded into a double play in the bottom of the seventh against Rafael Soriano. Scott was intentionally walked in the ninth.
By appearing in Friday's game, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera tied Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle for the most seasons played in Yankees history (18).
Saturday will be the second of 18 regular-season meetings between the Yankees and Rays this year. The two clubs split the season series last year, 9-9, while New York outscored Tampa Bay, 73-70.