NEW YORK -- The ace of the Texas Rangers' staff is normally guarded with his comments with reporters.
During the All-Star break, Yu Darvish revealed his thoughts about the game, raising questions about how pitchers are trained in the big leagues, the type of baseballs used and why several Japanese pitchers arrive in America healthy but end up hurt.
“I think everybody has a hard time maintaining their health, and everyone has a risk of getting injured,” Darvish said to Japanese reporters during the All-Star break in Minneapolis last week. “It depends on how you lower the risk of getting injured. I think it is [coming] to the age where the individual has to take care of their own body. I think that is the difference-maker.”
Darvish is scheduled to pitch in the third game of the Rangers-Yankees series on Wednesday and didn’t expound on his comments from the All-Star Game when asked in an interview on Monday.
Darvish, who is 9-5 with a 2.88 ERA, wasn’t finished. He was asked why is there an increase in Tommy John surgeries this season and how several pitchers are winding up injured, including the Yankee's Masahiro Tanaka, who is on the disabled list with a slight ligament tear in his elbow.
“I think there are a lot reasons that are being said, and I don't know the exact reason either, but I think it could be the way that we train,” Darvish said. “The way that we train nowadays is so that we can increase the velocity of our pitches. This is how I tell my training coach: lower body, back, lower back. If we concentrate on that area we are able to throw the ball faster, but we are not able to protect the arm and elbow. Since we are throwing the ball faster, there is more tension on the ligament; we need to protect that. So [the training], it's not good. So I think that is the main reason.”
Darvish said throwing the splitter isn’t a good idea because it “puts stress on the elbow. I think the changeup has more to do with it as it catches the ring finger. The forkball is different, and I think that definitely puts strain on the elbow. The grip of a split-finger is shallow and doesn't differ much than the two-seamer.”
Darvish noted several pitchers who performed in Japanese leagues, where starters normally go on six days' rest, ended up hurt in the big leagues due to pitching on four days' rest, which is the norm in America.
“It's way too short,” he said, regarding the time between starts. “That's why they have pitch-count limitations, but pitch count doesn't have much to do with it. You could throw 120 pitches, 140 pitches and have six days' rest, and the inflammation on the ligament will all be healed. So I think that's it.”
Darvish said going with six-man rotations is the best way to preserve pitching staffs and arms, but doubts it will happen because of the finances of the game.
Major league teams most likely will have to increase roster size, something the players union would like, but the owners might have problems with.
Darvish also believes banned substances might have affected the game in some ways.
Several pitchers over the years have been banned by major league baseball for using banned substances.
“There are a lot more banned substances compared to 10, 20 years ago,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “I'm not saying they were using substances, but nowadays you can't even take cold medicine. I think that may be a reason, too. I don't think that Matsuzaka, Tanaka, Wada, Fujikawa had damage to their ligaments in Japan. When they came over here they had medical checks, so I don't think they had any issues. So, it developed after they came here. So why? I think it's the time between starts and heavier ball, those kinds of things.”
The type of baseball is also a factor regarding arm injuries. In Japanese leagues, the type of baseball is smaller and according to Darvish a uniform size.
Darvish said the Rawlings baseballs used in the states are bigger -- which they are -- but the balls come in different sizes.
“The bottom line is not to have slippery balls,” Darvish said. “If the ball is slippery, you have to hold onto it real good. To do so puts stress here [on the arm]. But Rawlings is a big company, and there is a lot of red tape. But I think the material used for Japanese balls are really good, all the balls are the same. Over here they are all different.
Asked to explain further, Darvish said, “They are all different, the size, there are deformed ones. Japanese balls are all the same. It's great.”