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Friday, May 17, 2013
Updated: May 21, 3:46 PM ET
Darvish a different brand of pitcher

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Once in their 43-year history have the Texas Rangers had a pitcher finish in the top three of Cy Young Award voting -- and that was 39 years ago.

Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish finished with 130 pitches against the Tigers, the most he has thrown as a Ranger.

The Rangers are one of only five teams that have never had a Cy Young Award winner.

So it's not really your fault you don't know what a real ace looks like. Over the years the Rangers have had plenty of faux aces, guys who were simply the team's best pitcher.

Fergie Jenkins went 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA in 41 starts in 1974 while throwing 29 complete games. He finished second to Oakland's Catfish Hunter, who was also 25-12 that season with a 2.49 ERA.

Well, here's betting Yu Darvish will finish among the top three in Cy Young voting this season, if he doesn't win the award outright.

All of this means some of you will have to stop going crazy over his pitch count each start. Darvish isn't an ordinary pitcher. He does extraordinary things, which means he can't be judged by our traditional standard. The same way former catcher Pudge Rodriguez played nine more seasons after we thought his career was done after the 2002 season, and how Steve Nash won two MVP awards and is still playing nine seasons after we were sure his career was just about over when Mark Cuban let him leave after 2004.

Some guys are unique. You can't throw them in the same box we toss everyone else. Darvish is that kind of guy. He understands and embraces the responsibility that accompanies being an ace.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder threw 130 pitches Thursday against Detroit because it was a game the Rangers desperately needed to win with Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm pitching the next two nights against a power-packed Detroit lineup.

Darvish, whose start Tuesday against Oakland will be his first since his 130-pitch outing, is here to start winning streaks and stop losing streaks. It's one of the definitions of an ace.

Sometimes that requires a heavy workload.

Justin Verlander, the AL's best pitcher the past four seasons, has thrown 120 pitches or more 40 times in the past four seasons. He did it 11 times last season, including two starts of 130 pitches or more. Darvish has done it six times in 38 career starts.

No, you don't want Darvish throwing 125 pitches a game, but from time to time the Rangers will need him to do it, the same way Jim Leyland needs Verlander to do it.

Darvish is in the prime of his athletic career, so he's capable of handling the workload. He grew up in a culture where pitchers weren't coddled and regularly threw more than 120 pitches in Japan, though he normally had five days off between starts. Here he usually gets four days off between starts.

In 2011, his last season in Japan, Darvish surpassed the 130-pitch mark seven times in 28 starts. Once he threw 145 pitches.

The reality is the Rangers signed him to a six-year, $51 million deal -- and paid $51.7 million for the right to negotiate a contract -- to be the true ace they haven't had since Kevin Brown pitched in 1992 and finished sixth in Cy Young voting. To do that, there are times he's going to do things on the mound the Rangers would never consider letting another pitcher do.

And that's OK.

Darvish is putting every hitter and every team on notice that he considers himself the baddest man on the planet. You think his teammates don't respond to that? This isn't C.J. Wilson wilting under the weight of expectations and then creating excuses for failures. This isn't even Cliff Lee struggling in the regular season before giving us a glimpse in the first two rounds of the 2010 playoffs what a true ace means in the postseason.

"You should have seen the huge smile on his face when he walked in the dugout after the eighth inning," manager Ron Washington said. "When he sat down, every one of his teammates went over and congratulated him. They knew what he did."

What Darvish did was eliminate any possibility the Rangers would lose a game they had positioned themselves to win against the AL's best pitcher.

He pitched the eighth inning because the Tigers had Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez due up, and Washington thought Darvish was a better option than left-hander Robbie Ross. Remember, Tanner Scheppers wasn't available after pitching consecutive days. If he was, he'd would've pitched the eighth.

Besides, Darvish had retired 12 of 13 hitters, including 10 straight, and was a better option. He threw only 11 pitches in the seventh inning.

"Yu Darvish, in my opinion, is a stud," Washington said, "And I don't think we overworked him."

Neither does anyone else who's ever watched a true ace pitch.