Hasegawa denies swaying Kuroda

Hasegawa denies swaying Kuroda

NEW YORK -- When the Mariners lost out to the Dodgers in their pursuit of right-handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda this past offseason, there was speculation in Seattle that former Mariners reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa, a southern California resident and Kuroda advisor, had something to do with it.

But Hasegawa denied on Saturday that he had any influence on Kuroda's final decision and actually was surprised that the free-agent hurler chose the National League team over his former employer.

"It was not my decision, of course, and until the last one or two days, when he decided to go there instead of Seattle, I thought he would sign with the Mariners," said Hasegawa, an analyst for NHK television, which is televising this weekend's Mariners-Yankees series in Japan. "I don't know why he changed his mind -- that's none of my business -- but I heard his family thought Los Angeles was the best place."

The Mariners went to great lengths -- and expense -- in the hope of signing the 33-year-old right-hander. They sent a front-office contingent that included general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren to Tokyo in late November to meet with Kuroda. Seattle center fielder Ichiro Suzuki and catcher Kenji Johjima, two of the biggest names in Japanese baseball, also attended a lavish "recruiting" dinner.

"I know owner [and Nintendo founder Hiroshi Yamauchi] wanted [Kuroda] very much because it was in the paper every day," Hasegawa said. "It came down to two teams, and I did not make any recommendations. I told him either one would be good for him."

The Mariners were believed to be Kuroda's first choice for a variety of reasons: They were the only Major League team with a Japanese catcher, Seattle fit the pitcher's desire to play on the West Coast, the Mariners were determined to upgrade their starting pitching to contend for an American League West title and there is a strong Japanese community in the Pacific Northwest.

"As a team, I could not say the Dodgers were better because I never played for them," Hasegawa said. "The Dodgers people naturally said good things about Los Angeles and its Japanese community, and the Mariners said the same things about Seattle. The money was kind of the same."

The Mariners, Dodgers, Royals and Diamondbacks showed the most interest in Kuroda, who signed a four-year, $35.3 million contract with Los Angeles on Dec. 12.

The Mariners, the only organization willing to offer Kuroda a four-year deal, switched gears and turned their attention to free-agent right-hander Carlos Silva, signing him to a three-year, $48 million contract eight days later.

"I don't know what the other advisors told him, but I would never tell any player that any particular place is the best for him," said Hasegawa, who played for the Mariners from 2002-05. "What I do is tell them what I know about each place and leave it up to them."

The early returns favor Seattle.

After the first month of the regular season, Silva has a 3-0 record and a 2.79 ERA after six starts and 42 innings, while Kuroda is 1-2 with a 3.82 ERA after six starts with the Dodgers.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.