Darvish causes stir with electric debut
Right-hander fans three, allows two doubles in two frames
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Yu Darvish era in Texas began in earnest and in customary fashion on a brisk Wednesday afternoon against the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex.
Darvish's first pitch as a member of the Rangers was a fastball for a strike against the Padres' Cameron Maybin. Five pitches later, Darvish recorded the first of three strikeouts he would log in a 6-2 win.
"First, I was happy to compete again against an opponent," Darvish said. "I was with my four-seam fastball and my slider. It's an early part of the season, and I'm not worried about the negatives of today. I'm just happy to throw."
Overall, Darvish allowed two hits in two innings of work. He threw the first pitch for a strike to seven of the eight hitters he faced in the afternoon, mixing in a steady dose of fastballs and breaking pitches. Of Darvish's 36 pitches thrown, 26 were for strikes.
"I was not nervous at all," Darvish said. "Some of the players were teasing me about it before the game. I told them, 'No.' They said, 'You are! You are!'"
After striking out Maybin to start the game, Darvish got ahead of Orlando Hudson, 1-2, before the Padres second baseman lined a double to right field. The next batter, Jesus Guzman, was retired after hitting a soft liner to center field on a 0-2 pitch. Carlos Quentin struck out on a breaking ball to end the first inning. Overall, Darvish threw 19 pitches in the inning.
"He's good, man," Hudson said. "That dude is big, so you knew his fastball would be live. Good stuff, great poise. He knows what he's doing. That's a great thing."
Padres right fielder Will Venable led off the second inning with a double high off the wall in the center field on a 1-2 pitch. Darvish showed off his athletic ability, covering first base after the next hitter, Mark Kotsay, hit a sharp ground ball to first baseman Michael Young. He then made a leaping grab on chopper up the middle by James Darnell and tossed the ball home to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who tagged Venable for the second out of the frame.
Darvish struck out John Baker on five pitches for the final out to end his afternoon.
"I thought he handled himself well out there. He was very aggressive. He threw some good breaking balls and had some good depth on it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He had some good sink. The most impressive thing was the play he made and the play he made over his head. I'm happy for him that he got it out of his system and now he realizes it's just baseball. That's all it is."
Torrealba was impressed with Darvish's pitch command, particularly his sliders to right-handers and cut-fastballs to the left-handed hitters. He also liked the pitcher's presence on the mound.
"The communication was good," Torrealba said. "I talked to him before the game and asked what he wanted to do up there, and he basically said that whatever I put down, he was going to throw. He wanted to use all of his pitches."
Some estimated Darvish threw as many as seven different pitches Wednesday.
In fact, Torrealba was asked about the strikeout pitch to Maybin and he didn't really have an answer.
"A curve? I think it was split-finger," he said.
"I don't know," Young said. "It was nasty."
Darvish chose to pitch Wednesday's ballgame entirely from the stretch.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux said he was given two DVDs of Darvish before the pitcher signed with the Rangers, with one DVD featuring him pitching exclusively from the stretch and the other from the windup. Darvish threw a bullpen session earlier this week from the stretch and told Maddux was going to do the same Wednesday.
"It's something he has done before, and I have to check the rule book but I don't there is an infraction for pitching out of the stretch," Maddux said. "It's OK to pitch out of the stretch. The biggest pitches you make in a game come out of the stretch, so if you want to hone that craft, by all means, I am all for it."
The Rangers hope Darvish, who signed a six-year, $56 million deal with the club in January, can build on Wednesday's outing leading into his next start on Tuesday against the Indians.
He has a history of success. He went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games and 232 innings for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League.
Over the past five seasons, Darvish went 76-28 with a 1.72 ERA in 1,024 innings, striking out 1,083 and walking 221 batters. He twice led the Pacific League in ERA and in 2007 won the Eiji Sawamura Award, given to the top pitcher in Japan.
"This guy really wants to excel and that's refreshing for somebody that has had the success that he has had to understand that he is starting from square one over here," Maddux said. "He has high expectations of himself and we just expect him to keep us in the ballgame that he pitches."
It's clear that the right-hander has plenty of pitches to choose from. Darvish's arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cut-fastball, a four-seam changeup, a split changeup, a hard curve, slow curve, a sweeping slider and hard slider.
He might have another secret weapon up his sleeve.
"I've seen the five-seamer but have not seen the one-seamer," Maddux joked.