The guy we've slotted as the No. 3 starter will be drawing plenty of interest in spring training.
Today's position: No. 3 starter
We've given that designation to Yu Darvish, the 25-year-old Japanese star pitcher who signed for approximately $60 million over six years in January after the Rangers won the right to negotiate with Darvish thanks to a $51.7 million posting bid.
Darvish comes into camp amid high expectations. The Rangers have made a major investment in him and believe he has the potential to be the club's ace. But no one is throwing that label on Darvish yet. They want him to get settled in and start making all the necessary adjustments. And there are a bunch. He'll be throwing a different baseball, learning major league hitters, figuring out the language barrier, meeting new teammates and living away from home in a different country.
So spring training is important for him. He'll be working with pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins nearly every day and will have Joe Furukawa, one of the club's chief Japanese scouts, helping him as a translator when needed. Darvish will also be bringing over someone he knows to help him out. But he won't have a large entourage.
"We're not going to spring training with these great expectations that he's going to shine over everybody else," Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said the day Darvish signed. "We want him to come in and fit in and make the adjustment of being over here, being in major league baseball for the first time. As we go through spring training and the early part of the season, he'll start showing what he's capable of doing."
The question will be how well Darvish's numbers from Japan will translate in the big leagues. We've talked about this a lot on the blog, but the Rangers' scouts are confident, after having seen him at length for the last few seasons, that his stuff is good enough to get major league hitters out. He has seven pitches and Maddux has indicated that Darvish will likely decrease that to four or five and work hard at refining them and making them as good as they can possibly be. Here's a scouting report on Darvish, BTW.
He was 18-6 last season with a league-best 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts. He walked just 36 batters in 232 innings.
"We saw a guy that we felt was built to pitch innings and has a classic pitcher's build," GM Jon Daniels said shortly after Darvish signed. "He has a real commitment to his conditioning and work ethic. We think he can pitch innings at a high caliber for a large amount of time."
Darvish pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has been consistent after getting through some growing pains in his rookie season at age 18. He was 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in his career in Japan.
Darvish said all the right things at his news conference in Arlington a few weeks ago and then thanked fans (apparently more than 10,000 of them showed up) when he returned to Japan. Now he has to show the ability that the Rangers are banking will make a difference the next six seasons.
It's unclear what order the Rangers' rotation will take this season, but we put Darvish at No. 3, thinking that manager Ron Washington could put him between left-hander Derek Holland and left-hander Matt Harrison.