Posted: Thursday March 8, 2012 12:14PM ; Updated: Thursday March 8, 2012 12:14PM
Cliff Corcoran
Cliff Corcoran>INSIDE BASEBALL

Spring training roundup: Darvish impresses, more debuts on tap

Story Highlights

Yu Darvish pitched two scoreless innings for the Rangers in his U.S. debut

Jamie Moyer, the Rockies' 49-year-old lefty, also threw two scoreless innings

Neftali Feliz is expected to make his first spring appearance on Thursday

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Yu Darvish
The Rangers spent more than $100 million to bring Yu Darvish over from Japan during the offseason.
ZUMAperss.com

Whirling Darvish

The big event in spring training on Wednesday was the State-side debut of the Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish, who lived up to the hype as best one can in two innings in one's exhibition debut. Darvish threw two scoreless innings against the Padres, working exclusively from the stretch, striking out three and allowing just two hits. According to Pitch f/x analyst Harry Pavlidis of BrooksBaseball.net, Darvish threw eight different pitches in his two frames: slow curve, hard curve, slider, cutter, changeup, splitter, four-seam fastball and sinker. He also threw 26 of his 36 pitches (72 percent) for strikes, with first pitch strikes to seven of the eight men he faced and capped it all off with a nice fielding play to cut down a run at home plate on a comebacker to the left side of the mound.

As impressive as Darvish was, it's very easy to make too much out of his performance. The Padres are hardly a powerful offensive team, and the two hits he did allow, to Orlando Hudson and Will Venable, where both doubles, with Venable's two-bagger just missing being a home run to straight-away center. Darvish did well to strike out Carlos Quentin to strand Hudson in the first, getting him swinging over a slow, late-breaking curveball that dropped into the dirt, but his other two strikeouts were of Cameron Maybin, who struck out three times in as many trips on Wednesday, and former Marlins catcher John Baker, who has made just 104 major league plate appearances over the last two seasons due to injury. Maybin took strike three on the outside corner on what was likely a changeup; Baker swung over a faster diving pitch, possibly a splitter. Still, one thing Darvish didn't do on Wednesday was give anyone any reason to doubt his ability to succeed against major league hitters.

Pitching In

Other starters who had strong spring debuts on Wednesday included Darvish's fellow Nippon Professional Baseball transplant Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles, who also struck out three men in two scoreless frames, allowing only a single against the Twins. Forty-nine-year-old Jamie Moyer, who is in Rockies camp as a non-roster player but is battling for the back of the Colorado rotation, pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Giants allowing only a single and striking out one.

Jeff Samardzija, who is 22 years younger than Moyer and trying to force his way into the Cubs' rotation this spring, was so effective in his debut against the Royals that he got through three scoreless innings on 35 pitches despite also striking out three men. Samardzija faced the minimum nine batters thanks to Chris Getz, his lone baserunner via a single, getting thrown out stealing. Tyson Ross, who has a better shot at a rotation spot with the A's, threw three scoreless innings of his own against the Dodgers in his second spring outing. He allowed a single and a walk and struck out two.

Far less encouraging was the spring debut of projected Tigers fifth starter and top prospect Jacob Turner, who faced 10 Braves, walked four of them, gave up a single and double to two others, struck out no one, and was pulled with one out in the second inning.

New Positions

The Angels remain serious about trying Mark Trumbo at third base despite his complete lack of professional experience at the position. A stress fracture in his right foot has prevented Trumbo from hitting, but he has been cleared for all other activities, so the Angels started him at third and put him ninth in the batting order on Wednesday to give him some exposure at the hot corner before they would need to pinch-hit for him. However, with fly-ball pitcher Jered Weaver on the mound, Trumbo didn't have a ball hit in his direction before he had to come out of the game. However, given that Trumbo has never played third base as a pro, there was likely some value in simply standing at the position during actual game action and familiarizing himself with that vantage point.

On a similar note, Joe Mauer made his first ever spring training appearance at first base on Wednesday. Mauer played 18 games (16 of them starts) at first base last season in an attempt to help the team compensate for the extended loss of Justin Morneau, but he hadn't planned to play the position last March. This year, time at first base is part of the Twins' plan for keeping Mauer in the lineup, as evidenced by his start there in Wednesday's B-game against the Red Sox.

Aches and Pains

• Manny Ramirez was scratched from the A's lineup on Wednesday due to back stiffness experienced during batting practice.

• Pirates second baseman Neil Walker was also scratched to due back pain on Wednesday. He'll be shut down for a few days before being reevaluated.

• Dontrelle Willis was hit hard in an abbreviated relief outing for the Phillies on Wednesday and reported soreness and fatigue in his pitching arm after the game.

• Lefty John Grabow, a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers, reported a sore calf on Wednesday.

• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is nursing a sore left foot, didn't play in Wednesday's major league game, as initially hoped, instead participating in a minor league intrasquad game. LaRoche is still unable to run the bases and is questionable for a possible Saturday start with the major league team.

• Andrew Miller, who is battling for the last spot in the Red Sox rotation, has been scratched from his Thursday start after reporting elbow stiffness on Wednesday following a Tuesday bullpen session.

• Diamondbacks starter Josh Collmenter has been scratched from his Friday start due to forearm stiffness. He'll throw a bullpen instead, and top prospect Trevor Bauer will start in his place.

• Mark Teixeira, who jammed his thumb making a tag on Tuesday, had a scheduled day off on Wednesday and will start at first base for the Yankees on Thursday.

• Giants closer Brian Wilson threw live batting practice on Wednesday and is on schedule to make his spring debut on Sunday. Among those who hit against Wilson were Buster Posey, who is expected to start on Friday, marking his first appearance behind the plate since his season-ending ankle injury last May. Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez also hit against Wilson, and could see action as a designated hitter as soon as Friday.

What to Watch on Thursday

• Justin Morneau, who is attempting to overcome post-concussion syndrome as well as work his way back from September surgeries on his knee, foot and wrist, will start at first base for the Twins, marking the first time he has played on consecutive days this spring. Morneau doubled and walked as the Twins' designated hitter on Wednesday in his third spring game. He started at first base in the first two of those games and is now 2-for-7 on the spring.

• Neftali Feliz, who is attempting to transition back to starting after two years as the Rangers' closer, will start against the White Sox in his first appearance of the spring.

• Aaron Crow, who is hoping to force his way into the Royals rotation after making the All-Star team as a rookie reliever last year, will make his spring debut against the Rockies in relief of Felipe Paulino.

Also: The Brewers' Zack Greinke will start against the Reds with new corner infielders Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel behind him...The Cardinals' new first baseman, Lance Berkman, and shortstop Rafael Furcal will make their spring debuts against the Red Sox behind Jaime Garcia, who is also making his first appearance this spring...The Angels' Dan Haren will make his spring debut against the Indians' Ubaldo Jimenez...Edinson Volquez will make his Padres debut against the Giants and Madison Bumgarner.

 
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