On Assignment: Texas Rangers Spring Training – Day 1

If you listened to the second podcast you know that I have been in Arizona since last Wednesday watching the Texas Rangers in Spring Training. If you have not yet listened to it, stop what you’re doing (including reading this) and go listen.

Now, when we planned this out a few weeks ago we were going to take our time going to the first game and not stress if we didn’t make it. But a few days later it was announced that that particular day would be Yu Darvish’s first start of the spring. After seeing this I was worried that we would not be able to walk up and get tickets at the gate, so we bought them beforehand.

Contrary to what you might think, that game actually had the fewest fans of any game we went to with a crowd of just over 2,000. It did, however, have the highest media contingency with 300+ media members.

Darvish’s outing was as good an outing as you can expect for a start on March 7, which I’m sure you have heard about by now. Two innings, 3 strikeouts, 2 hits (doubles) and no runs.

What really gives me hope is that he fielded his position well. If you watched the Rangers last season, you know that the pitchers were the worst in the majors in fielding. After giving up a deep double to Will Venable, which would have been a home run in every park, Darvish made a play on a ground ball to cut Venable down at the plate, who had moved over over to third after a groundout from the previous batter.

I routinely watched Ranger pitchers botch play after play last season. Had teams last season just bunted the ball at the pitchers they may have averaged an extra run a game.

Now I do understand that this was a Spring Training game against the Padres, who fielded a split squad so they shouldn’t have been able to put up much offense, but he featured seven pitches ranging from a 95-mph fastball to a 68-mph offspeed pitch. Having that much difference in speed can really benefit him in July and August if he can maintain control.

He is going to be ready come Opening Day and likely will be in mid-season form by then. Will he wear himself out trying to live up to the hype? That is the question that bothers me the most. I think he may be pushing himself too hard to be prove he’s not a typical Japanese pitcher who have not had the same type of success in MLB as they did in Japan.

And just a cautionary tale – Darvish does not like pictures being taken when he warms up.

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