Darvish arrives, works out at Rangers camp
Japanese pitcher to hold first news conference Thursday
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com | 02/21/12 1:16 PM EST
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Yu Darvish arrived at Rangers Spring Training at 8:30 a.m. MST on Tuesday morning. There were about two dozen members of the Japanese media waiting for him behind a restraining rope, but he barely acknowledged them as he walked to the clubhouse.
Darvish went inside, got dressed and went out for his first workout in Rangers camp. He also mingled with some of the other pitchers as he began life as a Major League pitcher on a cool Arizona morning.
"He wants to learn English," Rangers pitcher Derek Holland said. "He doesn't know much, but he wants to learn. He's not stand-offish. He was right there with us. He wants to fit in. It won't be hard for him."
Darvish, who was in camp one day before the official reporting date, did not talk to the media. The Rangers are keeping the clubhouse closed and the back fields off-limits until the official reporting date on Wednesday. He is expected to hold his first news conference in Arizona on Thursday.
Darvish played catch with Holland, then went into the bullpen for a throwing session. He threw 30 pitches to Luis Martinez, the catcher acquired by the Rangers from the Padres during the offseason. "It was a bit overwhelming after what he did in Japan," Martinez said. "I was excited. He had a bunch of pitches and had great stuff. He was down in the zone. He did very well."
Darvish also missed with a few pitches, both with Holland and with Martinez. He kept apologizing after every bad pitch.
"That's the one thing he needs to learn is he doesn't have to apologize like that," Holland said. "There's no need for that. You're not always going to hit your spots."
There weren't many bad pitches, but Darvish did use his full repertoire.
"He threw 30 pitches and threw about 10 different pitches," Martinez said. "His [sinker] and [cut fastball] had good movement and downward action. His splitter was pretty good, too. There's nobody like him. He's unique."
Martinez once caught Greg Maddux in a bullpen session while he was with the Padres. The Rangers had four catchers working with a dozen pitchers on Tuesday, but Martinez was the one who ended up catching Darvish.
"It just fell into place that way," Martinez said. "I caught the one before that and he just got on the mound."
That's how Martinez ended up posing for pictures with the Japanese media on his way to the clubhouse.
The Japanese media were not permitted to attend the throwing session close-up. Instead they tried to take pictures from 1,000 yards away across the players' parking lot and through some trees and wire fences. The Rangers have received over 170 credential requests from Japan to cover Darvish this spring.
"He's a rock star," said Rangers pitcher Yoshinori Tateyama, who was his teammate for six years on the Nippon Ham Fighters. "The environment is very similar here to Japan. I don't think he cares that much about it."
The Rangers acquired the rights to negotiation with Darvish by posting a winning bid of $51.7 million that went to the Fighters. The Rangers then signed him on Jan. 18 to a six-year, $56 million contract plus potential bonuses and incentives.
They did so believing Darvish, 25, is the best pitcher to ever come out of Japan. He was 18-6 with a career-low 1.44 ERA for the Fighters last year. He also set career highs with 276 strikeouts, 232 innings pitched and six shutouts. He was 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in 164 starts and three relief appearances during his seven years in Japan, winning two MVP Awards and one Top Pitcher Award.
Tateyama, who made 39 appearances for the Rangers last year, said he has talked to Darvish about what to expect in Texas.
"We talked about the stadium a little bit, how the wind blows and stuff like that," Tateyama said.
What about the heat?
"The summers in Japan have a lot of humidity, so in terms of the environment, it's not that different," Tateyama said.
The Rangers will find out later how Darvish handles the Texas heat and many other things associated with being a Major League pitcher. Tuesday was only the beginning, but his teammates were impressed.
"He looks really good," Holland said. "You can tell."