Starting pitcher Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the San Diego Padres during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 7, 2012 in Peoria, Arizona.
(March 6, 2012 – Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
(PhatzRadio / USA Today) — PEORIA, Ariz. – Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish shrugged off the pressure of facing his first major league batters and the distraction of 150 news reporters and a live NHK telecast in Japan.
He even downplayed the force of the hardest hit ball off him.
It was deliciously Darvish, and after Wednesday’s two-inning, scoreless, two-hit, three-strikeout performance in the Rangers’ 6-2 Cactus League victory vs. the San Diego Padres, Darvish-mania is officially underway.
“He’s got a whole country on his shoulders,” Padres veteran second baseman Orlando Hudson said. “He’s got pressure from Japan. Pressure from the States. Pressure from ESPN. That’s a lot of pressure to live up to.
“But I think he’ll do a hell of a job. He’s got seven pitches to embarrass you with. He’s like Nintendo up there.”
Darvish, who insisted he wasn’t nervous, showed why the Rangers invested $111 million in perhaps Japan’s greatest pitcher. He threw six types of pitches, including a fastball that reached 95 mph; threw 26 of 36 pitches for strikes; induced nine swings-and-misses; and made an acrobatic leap to save a run.
“He’s definitely more athletic than some Japanese pitchers we’ve seen over here,” Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin said.
Darvish understands English, is learning Spanish and impresses teammates with his personality.
And Darvish, who went 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters, let everyone know he’s not lacking in confidence, either. When asked about outfielder Will Venable’s double that hit high off the wall in straightaway center, Darvish blamed the 410-foot shot on wind and the thin desert air.
“To me,” Darvish said through his interpreter, “it didn’t seem that it was hit very squarely.”
Venable, stunned when told of Darvish’s reaction, said, “Wow! Maybe his perception of reality isn’t …