Suzuki isn't the Seattle Mariners' leadoff hitter anymore, but he's batted third in the club's first two games of the season (against the Oakland A's in Tokyo).
"Just get him out," Rangers manager Ron Washington said when asked his thoughts on the matchup. "Ichiro is one of the better players in the American League. Darvish is going to be trying to establish himself as one of the better pitchers, so it should be a good matchup. But it's not Darvish against Ichiro, it's Darvish against the Seattle Mariners."
Ever since the Rangers signed Darvish to a six-year, $56 million guaranteed deal (that includes $4 million in incentives), plus the $51.7 million posting fee, fans have wondered when he would make his debut. For the Japanese media especially, it's been a constant discussion. There was a thought of breaking up left-handed pitchers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, which would have given Darvish center stage on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball against the White Sox in the third game of the season.
But at this point, the Rangers aren't going to tinker with things. Pitching coach Mike Maddux set up the rotation a few weeks ago and had the lefties going consecutively. They've pitched well, so why change it now?
Plus, one of the notions of breaking lefties up is to give the team you're facing a different look. The White Sox will face both lefties in the same series, but after that, if everyone stays on a five-day schedule, the same team won't see Derek Holland and Matt Harrison until late April when the New York Yankees come to town. And the club could always alter the rotation using off days if they choose.
But this is a fun way to get the AL West showdowns started. Darvish pitching against one of the greats from Japan in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. That first month, Darvish will also get to try to get through the Yankees' lineup in Arlington and face Minnesota and Detroit on the road.
The debut means that after Darvish's every spring training pitch -- first in a bullpen, then an intrasquad game, followed by Cactus League and minor league games -- has been catalogued and analyzed, he'll get to face hitters in games that actually count. And we finally know the date.