Friday, January 20, 2012
Updated: January 21, 3:09 AM ET
Rangers introduce Yu Darvish
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was a barrage of light flashes and shutter clicks as soon as Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish walked into a prime-time news conference at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Not since the Texas Rangers introduced Alex Rodriguez in 2000, after he signed the largest contract in the history of the game, was a news conference so well attended for a baseball player in Dallas-Fort Worth. But that's what happens when the biggest star in Japanese baseball agrees to a six-year deal with the two-time defending American League champions.
"The Rangers have had a lot of big moments on the field the last couple of years, but there haven't been too many bigger off the field than what brings us here today," said general manager Jon Daniels, who also said hello to new Rangers fans in Japan, even speaking a phrase in Japanese.
Darvish held his No. 11 Rangers jersey -- the same number he wore in Japan -- as Daniels, manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux smiled broadly. The size of the 25-year-old Darvish was evident, as his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame towered over Daniels and nearly everyone else in the room.
Slugger Josh Hamilton sat in the front row with co-chairman of the board Ray Davis and Bob Simpson and a host of other part owners. Darvish's father, Farsad, was also in attendance.
Yu Darvish is used to all the attention. He's dealt with plenty of media while putting up impressive pitching numbers in Japan. He'll have to get used to it in the United States, too. Dozens of television cameras, many carrying the conference live to Japan (where it was Saturday morning), filmed his every move and word Friday.
Through Joe Furukawa, his translator and a key member of the club's scouting staff in Japan, Darvish talked about how excited he was to be in the big leagues and playing for a winner.
"The Rangers made me feel like family and showed their passion for the game," Darvish said. "I'm excited. That's what I feel right now."
A few hundred reporters watched as Darvish calmly answered questions, cracking jokes, but staying even-keeled. He talked about having to make adjustments to the big leagues and his preparation for the high expectations to follow.
"[I want] to do the best I can do and make my starts and do the best for the team," Darvish said. "Regarding off-the-field things and pressure, it's something to try to not be too tight about. I'll have an open mind and be relaxed."
Darvish arrives with an impressive résumé as the best pitcher in Japan. In seven years with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, who will now receive a $51.7 million check from the Rangers as payment of the posting fee, he was a two-time Pacific League MVP and a five-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star.
Darvish was 93-38 in his career in Japan with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games (164 of those starts). He had a 0.98 WHIP, 55 complete games, 18 shutouts and 1,250 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .204 against him in his career.
But all of that was against hitters in Japan. Now, with a six-year, approximately $60 million deal in hand with the Rangers, he must show he can get the best hitters in the world out in the big leagues.
Since Wednesday at 4:57 p.m. ET, when the deal was announced just three minutes before the deadline, the Rangers have attempted to temper expectations. While Rangers president Nolan Ryan said he believes Darvish has ace potential, the club wants him to ease into life in the major leagues. It's a big transition. He has to deal with throwing with a different ball, learning big league hitters, getting to know his teammates while trying to get over a language barrier, pitching in 100-degree heat in the summer in Texas and living in a new country with a different culture.
The Rangers are confident Darvish will be able to handle all of it but don't want to put any more pressure on him.
"We'll let him go through the process of getting ready, go through his routine and he'll get a feel for what we're looking for and we'll move forward from there," Washington said. "Baseball is universal. We just want him to come in and be Yu Darvish and help the Texas Rangers continue to move forward in the success that we've been having the past few years."
Darvish said he has "no worries," and is looking forward to the challenge of making all of the necessary adjustments to the big leagues.
He joked that he asked Daniels to move the right-center field wall back a bit.
"I don't think Josh wants us to move it back," Daniels said. "We'll let them arm wrestle and figure it out."
Darvish also revealed that he's read a book about Ryan and added that, judging by the Hall of Famer's physique, he bets the Rangers president can still throw 94 miles per hour.
The Japanese pitcher says he'll learn how to adjust to the Texas heat, where the temperature routinely climbs above 100 degrees. And he's confident he can pitch every fifth day, adding that he's done it some already and threw 120-plus pitches and felt fine.
Darvish plans on having Furukawa translate for him, but he does want to learn English.
"The hearing part, I think I'm OK," Darvish said. "The speaking part may take some time. But as time goes by, I think I'll be able to speak and understand better."
Darvish is returning to Japan to continue his workouts and will arrive at spring training in time for the Feb. 22 report date. When he returns, he see all those flashbulbs and hear the shutter clicks again.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.
The Rangers made me feel like family and showed their passion for the game. I'm excited. That's what I feel right now.
-- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish