Yu Darvish has 1st Cactus start

  • Richard Durrett [ARCHIVE]
  • ESPNDallas.com | March 8, 2012

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish did a little bit of everything in his first two official innings of spring training.

He got three strikeouts, showing nice movement on his pitches. He gave up two doubles, discovering what major league hitters do to fastballs up in the strike zone. Darvish got a chance to use his 6-foot-5 frame and made two solid defensive plays, putting his athleticism on display. The 25-year-old threw his seven-pitch repertoire -- all out of the stretch because that's what he felt most comfortable doing on Wednesday -- and got his first chance to see what opposing hitters do with his pitches.

He did it all in front of a crowd of 2,910 at Peoria Sports Complex, which included Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and CEO Nolan Ryan. About 100 media members, including a slew of cameras, watched intently. The outing was broadcast live in Japan and ESPNEWS carried the first inning as well.

Even before Darvish stepped to the mound, his teammates kept asking him if he was nervous.

"And I told them, 'No, I'm not.'" Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa. "But they still say, 'No, you are. You're nervous.'"

Darvish displayed his wide array of pitches, including a fastball at 92 to 95 mph on both sides of the plate. He threw an 80 mph curve (one of his harder curves, actually) to get Carlos Quentin, the Padres' cleanup hitter, to end the first inning. Darvish threw an 84 mph slider with lots of movement to get Cameron Maybin swinging for a strikeout earlier in the inning. He ended his outing with a split-fingered fastball that catcher John Baker couldn't get and walked off the mound.

Several teammates and coaches congratulated him after the outing, which included 36 pitches (26 of them strikes).

Darvish
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesYu Darvish pitched two scoreless innings in his first Cactus League start Wednesday.

"It was a pretty good first outing," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "A good debut for the rookie."

Darvish did allow two doubles on pitches up in the zone. Orlando Hudson hit a double through the hole between first and second, but was left stranded at second in the first. Will Venable hit a 2-2 fastball up in the strike zone high off the wall in center field for a leadoff double in the second.

"With the dry air in Arizona and the wind blowing out, it carried the ball," Darvish said. "It didn't seem like a ball that was hit that squarely."

Venable said he thought it had a chance to leave the park.

"I didn't know what was going to happen with the wind," Venable said. "I never expect any balls that I hit to go out so I just put my head down and start running.

"I knew he was going to be good. There's a buzz for a reason. He met all the expectations that I thought he might. He's good."

Manager Ron Washington was glad to see Darvish respond well after that double.

Darvish made two impressive defensive plays in that second inning. Mark Kotsay hit a hard ground ball toward first and Michael Young made a nice diving play to his right to snag it. As he came up and turned to first, Darvish was already nearly at the bag waiting on him. He caught the ball and then immediately looked at third to make sure the runner wasn't turning for home.

A few pitches later, James Darnell hit a chopper toward the mound. Darvish made a leaping grab look easy and immediately threw home to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who got Venable in a rundown.

"He looked like a shortstop making that throw," Maddux said.

Darvish then struck out Baker.

"I was happy just to be able to pitch a game against another opponent," Darvish said. "I was happy with my four-seam fastballs and my slider was working well. As far as what I wasn't happy with, this part of the season I don't worry about those too much."

Darvish threw exclusively out of the stretch on Wednesday, something he planned to do after doing the same thing in his last bullpen session. Maddux said he received two DVDs of Darvish's starts from 2011. One from July was thrown completely out of the stretch. The other, from October, featured Darvish from the windup. Maddux wants Darvish to go with the delivery that makes him the most comfortable.

"I've got to check the rule book, but I don't think there's an infraction for pitching out of the stretch," Maddux said. "The biggest pitches you make in the game come out of the stretch, so if you want to hone that craft, by all means."

Darvish appeared to handle the pressure of the widespread media coverage just fine on Wednesday. But Hudson, who hit a double off him in the first, thinks that pressure will just increase.

"That's a lot to live up to," Hudson said. "Every start, eyes are on him. You give up one home run and it's going to be like, 'What's going on?' The first time he goes three innings, it'll be like, 'What happened?' That's a lot of pressure. I can't say he's going to live up to it. Does he have the potential to live up to it? Oh yeah, definitely. We saw some of that today but he's got a lot to deal with."

This first Cactus League start continues Darvish's preparation for the regular season. He arrived in Surprise, Ariz., on the morning of Feb. 21 as a few dozen cameras followed him as he met some of his new teammates and jogged out for a workout. He threw to live hitters a few days later and has steadily followed the same regimen as the rest of the Rangers' pitchers.

Darvish's two innings on Wednesday mark his first action against opposing hitters. He'll get more chances this spring, with another start -- likely three innings -- coming March 13 in Glendale against the Cleveland Indians.

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