Roundup: Darvish impressive in exhibition debut
What he didn't show was any nerves.
"I've thrown in so many games, you know?" he said through a translator.
Sure has. The 25-year-old right-hander was a dominant pitcher for seven years in Japan before the Rangers spent more than $107 million to acquire him this winter.
Darvish struck out three in two scoreless innings and made a run-saving play in the Rangers' 6-2 win over a split squad of San Diego Padres . The highly anticipated debut at Peoria Sports Complex was chronicled by more than 150 reporters, most of them from Japan.
"I was really looking forward to pitching today," Darvish said.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander with the shaggy, orange-tinted hair and a dark goatee whose stated goal is to become the world's best pitcher threw exclusively out of the stretch, something he had cleared with pitching coach Mike Maddux beforehand.
Twenty-six of his 36 pitches were strikes and he allowed two hits, both doubles, including one by Will Venable off the center-field wall leading off the second inning.
"He was lucky that it didn't go out," Venable said, because that ball's a home run to every part of the park except straightaway center.
Darvish struck out his first batter, Cameron Maybin , looking, and his last, John Baker , swinging. He also made two nice defensive plays, one of them covering the bag when first baseman Michael Young dived to rob Mark Kotsay of a base hit.
"He got over pretty quick. He's definitely a little more athletic than some of the Japanese pitchers that we've seen come over here," Maybin said.
Then, came his really big defensive play.
With Venable racing in from third with the apparent first run of the game, Darvish reached high to snare James Darnell 's high hopper.
Venable froze as Darvish fired to catcher Yorvit Torrealba , who chased Venable back down the line a few steps before tagging him out.
"Yeah, he's really tall," Young said. "I don't think we have many guys who can make that play. So, it's nice to have a guy who's really big and athletic and knows how to field his position really well. ... Another big plus."
Young jammed his left thumb making the play and left the game but said afterward he was fine.
Darvish said he was happy to finally face big league hitters and was especially pleased with his four-seam fastball that popped the mitt at 95 mph and also his sharp slider.
Yet, he seemed thrilled most of all by his defense.
"Yes, I was kind of waiting for that question if anyone was going to ask me about my fielding today," he said through an interpreter. "But we've been working on that and I thought it went well. I was happy with that."
Torrealba said he called for fastballs, curves, sliders, cutters, changeups and splitters, and Darvish threw them all with really good command. When Darvish saw that home plate umpire Doug Eddings was calling the high strike, he felt as comfortable going upstairs with heaters as he did spinning offspeed pitches down low in the strike zone.
"He had good stuff, great poise," Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson said. "... Seven different pitches. It's hard enough to throw one pitch in the big leagues, man."
Hudson said he's an intrigued as everyone else about Darvish's ability to transfer his success from Japan to the majors.
"He had a good run at the [World Baseball Classic] a couple of years ago, but I can't say he'll live up to the hype. As far as stats and looking at what he's done, yeah. But coming from the pressure from Japan, coming from the states and pressure from the writers, ESPN, that's a lot to live up to," Hudson said.
"Every start, eyes on him. You give up one home run, 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."
Darvish had a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games in the past seven seasons in Japan, where he was a two-time MVP of the Pacific League and a five-time All-Star.
There will be huge expectations given he signed a $56 million, six-year contract and the Rangers paid his Japanese club $51.7 million just to have the chance to acquire him.
Texas President and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has called Darvish a unique talent who clearly has the potential to be a No. 1 starter in the majors. But the Rangers aren't yet putting that kind of expectation on him even with their huge financial investment.
They're going to take things slowly.
But so far, so good.
"I asked him before the game if he was nervous and he said no," Torrealba said. "He looked good out there. He looked like he was pumped to go out there, I saw confidence. When Venable hit a double, he knew right away. It was a fastball, we tried to go inside. He left it right in the middle and he told me right away.
Nerves or not, Rangers manager Ron Washington was glad the hoopla of Darvish's debut was finally over.
"I'm happy for him that he got it out of his system, and now he realizes that it's baseball, that's all it is. He did a great job," Washington said.
Darvish shook off Torrealba a couple of times but mostly trusted his veteran catcher to call the game.
"Communication was good. I basically talked to him before the game and he basically said whatever I put down he's going to throw it and he wanted to use all his pitches," Torrealba said.
They all worked well.
"I only saw three. I saw fastball, change ball and a slider, I think. But they all had good action on them," Maybin said.
Venable saw five of Darvish's different pitches and was equally impressed.
"He left the fastball over the plate, but good stuff," Venable said. "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."
In other exhibition action Wednesday ...
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- Right-hander Bronson Arroyo pitched three innings in his spring debut and gave up a homer by Jeremy Hermida that helped split-squad San Diego beat Cincinnati.
Hermida hit a solo shot in the first off Arroyo, who allowed a club-record 46 homers last season. The right-hander contracted mononucleosis during spring training last year and it lingered into the season, leading to a 9-14 record. Arroyo was scheduled to go two innings, but threw so few pitches that he lasted three. He gave up one run on two hits and a walk.
Left-hander Cory Luebke, who earned a role in the Padres' rotation after beginning last season in the bullpen, struck out four and picked off two during his two scoreless innings. Cincinnati managed three hits overall.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jamie Moyer pitched two innings of scoreless ball in his first outing in 18 months and Colorado tagged Tim Lincecum for five runs before San Francisco rallied to win.
The 49-year-old Moyer last pitched July 20, 2010, when he was with Philadelphia. Soon after, he had Tommy John surgery. He struck out one and gave up one hit for the Rockies.
Carlos Gonzalez had a two-run single in the second inning for the Rockies.
New Giant Melky Cabrera continued his torrid hitting, raising his spring average to .571 (8 for 14) by going 3 for 3.
Hannahan's fourth-inning shot came off Diamondbacks prospect Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs gave up the four runs on one hit and four walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Arizona's Trevor Cahill also struggled in his Diamondbacks debut, giving up a two-run homer to Kipnis and allowing Choo's solo shot in two innings of work. Cahill was acquired in a December trade with the Oakland A's.
Indians left-hander David Huff, who is battling for the final spot in the rotation, allowed two runs, two hits and struck out one in three innings for the win.
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jeff Samardzija allowed one hit in three scoreless innings for Chicago.
Samardzija, the former Notre Dame football star who has made only five starts in the majors, is trying to earn one of two vacancies in the Cubs' rotation after going 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances last year. He threw 26 strikes in 35 pitches.
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, acquired by the Royals from San Francisco in an offseason trade, got little help from his fielders. The Cubs took advantage of three errors, two by third baseman Mike Moustakas, to score four runs in the first off Sanchez. The inning included RBI singles by Bryan LaHair, Jae-Hoon Ha and Darwin Barney.
Hoping to make more than 30 starts for the first time since 2007, Peavy said he focused on fastball command, throwing few breaking pitches. He struck out two, walked none, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Seattle right-hander Blake Beavan, a favorite for a back-end rotation spot, allowed two hits in four scoreless innings for Seattle.
Angels ace Jered Weaver allowed three hits in two scoreless innings in his first spring start.
The Mariners scored first in the seventh when Angels right-hander Loek Van Mil mishandled Trayvon Robinson's bunt and threw wildly to first, allowing Luis Rodriguez to score from second. Stefan Romero hit a single to bring Robinson home for a 2-0 lead. Vinnie Catricala added a two-run homer in the eighth.
Ross, who started six games for Oakland last season, allowed one hit and a walk. He struck out two.
Dodgers starter Aaron Harang allowed two runs on four consecutive hits in the first.
Non-roster outfielder Cory Sullivan had three hits for Los Angeles.
A's designated hitter Manny Ramirez was scratched about 20 minutes before the first pitch with soreness in his back. The 39-year-old slugger is 0 for 5 to start the spring, and had been getting some extra at-bats during a simulated game.
Raburn tripled against Atlanta starter Brandon Beachy in the second inning. Beachy gave up four runs over two innings in his first start.
Cabrera drove a pitch from Jairo Ascancio over the berm in the left field corner.
Rookie Jacob Turner walked four and didn't make it through the second inning in his first start for the Tigers.
Left-hander Andy Oliver pitched three shutout innings for Detroit.
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) -- Baltimore newcomer Wei-Yin Chen made a neat debut, pitching two scoreless innings as the Orioles beat Minnesota.
Chen, a native of Taiwan, pitched in Japan the last four seasons.
In his second spring start, Carl Pavano allowed a run and six hits in three innings. In five innings, Pavano has given up three runs and nine hits.
VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Jordan Zimmermann struck out three in three scoreless innings as Washington and St. Louis played to a tie.
Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn gave up a tying, two-run homer to Carlos Maldonado in the ninth. The game was called after nine innings.
Zimmermann allowed three hits and walked one in his exhibition debut.
St. Louis prospect Shelby Miller made the first spring training start of his career. He gave up a leadoff double to Ian Desmond and an RBI single to Jason Michaels, then retired the side in order in the second inning.
Daniel Descalso homered for St. Louis.
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - Vance Worley gave up two runs in his first start of spring training and Philadelphia was roughed up Houston.
Worley, who finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, allowed singles to each of the first two batters of the game and allowed a run in each of his two innings. Worley wasn't too concerned as he was working on his new split-fingered changeup.
Jordan Schafer and J.D. Martinez led the Astros. Schafer, who started off the game with a single and scored the first run, went 3 for 4. Martinez had two hits and three RBIs.
Houston right-hander Bud Norris threw three hitless innings in his first start of the spring.
Making his exhibition debut, Karstens gave up two hits and struck out one.
Toronto's Yan Gomes hit a solo homer in the seventh that broke a 4-all tie.
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) -- Toronto shortstop Omar Vizquel's throwing error gave Boston two runs and helped the Red Sox tie a split squad of Toronto Blue Jays in a game halted after nine innings.
Singles by Lars Anderson and Kelly Shoppach in the Boston fourth and a wild pitch by Francisco Cordero put runners on second and third with two outs. Vizquel fielded Juan Carlos Linares' grounder and threw low to first, the ball skipping past Edwin Encarnacion.
Ryan Sweeney's sacrifice fly in the third inning gave Boston the early lead. Encarnacion's two-run single put the Blue Jays ahead in the bottom half.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - James Shields sailed through his first spring training start.
The Tampa Bay right-hander pitched two perfect innings, and the Rays beat the New York Yankees.
Hiroki Kuroda allowed three runs and three hits over two innings during his Yankees' spring training debut. New York signed the former Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher to a $10 million, one-year contract.
The Rays are playing without Evan Longoria, who has a bruised right hand.
Stephen Vogt, who had 105 RBIs at Double and Triple-A last season, drove in a pair of runs with a triple off Kuroda during a three-run second. He finished 3 for 3.
Jonathon Niese pitched two hitless innings and struck out two for the Mets.
Turner had two RBI singles in his first two at-bats before homering to left field off of Rob Rasmussen.
Reyes, who left the Mets for the Marlins in the offseason, was in Miami for the other split-squad game.
MIAMI (AP) - Ricky Nolasco allowed one hit and no walks in three scoreless innings to help a Miami split squad beat Florida International University.
Making his first appearance of the spring, Nolasco threw 31 pitches, 22 for strikes.
With the retractable roof at the Marlins' new ballpark closed for the second consecutive night, Emilio Bonifacio hit the lone home run. Newcomer Jose Reyes twice handled difficult grounders at shortstop to rob the Panthers of hits.
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