It was a picturesque day for baseball in Peoria, Arizona, and Yu Darvish did his best to make his American debut picturesque as well.
Darvish signed a 6 year contract in January, after the Rangers won his bidding rights in December for around 50 million dollars, to become the ace for the two time defending AL champions. On Wednesday, we all got a glimpse of the 110 million dollar mystery man, and he hardly disappointed.
Darvish was only slated to throw 2 innings, or 40 pitches, in his first Cactus League tune-up, and he turned in 2 scoreless innings.
After striking out Padres leadoff hitter Cameron Maybin to open the game on a filthy slider, Darvish quickly proved to be human by giving up a double on a high fastball to Orlando Hudson that found the hole between second and first. Although he found out firsthand what major league hitters will do to fastballs left up in the zone, Darvish stranded Hudson at second, following it up with a bloop to center field and a strikeout of former White Sock Carlos Quentin to end the inning.
Darvish also proved he could field his position in the second inning. Will Venable cracked a 2-2 pitch to the center field wall and led the inning off with a double. Mark Kotsay stepped in next and hit one in the hole between first and second, forcing Michael Young to range to his right to field it. Darvish was quick off the mound to cover the bag, and Venable moved to third. James Darnell followed that up with a high chopper back to the mound, where Darvish used every inch of his 6-5 frame to leap in the air and snatch it, allowing him to catch Venable in a rundown between home and third and eliminating the lead runner. Padre catcher John Baker stepped in next and struck out swinging on an unhittable split finger to end the inning, along with Darvish’s day.
Overall, Darvish threw 36 pitches in his 2 inning stint, 26 for strikes, and featured seven different pitches. His fastball touched 95 MPH, and he had good control of his slider. His command wasn’t 100 % sharp, but Darvish shrugged it off, saying, “As far as what I wasn’t happy with, this part of the season I don’t worry about that much.”
And that’s what Spring Training is for. For most everyone else, it’s about shaking off the rust of the offseason and preparing for the grind of the season. While Darvish attempts to do that, he has numerous sets of eyeballs analyzing him, trying to measure the man against the mystery. If he displays the same stuff he had today over 30 starts in the regular season, I think it is fair to say the Rangers will be happy with their investment.