It’s a pretty dicey proposition when you start over-analyzing a pitcher’s first start in spring training, but that’s exactly what was going to happen all along when it came to Texas Rangers’ newcomer Yu Darvish. His acquisition was one of the biggest stories of the offseason as the Rangers paid $51 million just for exclusive negotiating rights and then $60 million for a six-year contract. Therefore, his first spring appearance Wednesday was going to garner attention.
For the most part, he answered all that attention well, pitching two scoreless innings, though he did give up what perhaps should have been a home run to San Diego outfielder Will Venable. Darvish earned the praise of Texas general manager Jon Daniels afterward, particularly with the scrutiny in place.
Jon Daniels joined ESPN Dallas with Galloway and Company to discuss Darvish’s first outing, how bad everyone needed it with all eyes on Darvish, the personality his new pitcher has shown, where he’ll end up in the rotation, Darvish having spent his whole life in the spotlight, what he was thinking about the team heading into the offseason and Josh Hamilton’s recent comments about not owing the team anything.
How would you describe Yu Darvish’s first outing in spring training?:
“I thought it was good. His stuff’s electric; you know that. The command was OK. He threw strikes. I didn’t think they were his best strikes. … I think overall he mixed his pitches. I think he used his fastball a little bit more which is what we want to see. His two-seamers that he threw were really good and some of his four-seam fastballs I thought he left up in the zone a little bit.”
With the scrutiny of the situation did everyone involved kind of need a start like that to kick things off?:
“It beats talking about a bullpen or live BP. It was real game action. It still, like you said, doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it’s something more to talk about than what we had. I saw a note from Aaron Boone. … He basically said he came away impressed with Yu Darvish — he acts like a pitcher who knows he’s good and is getting ready for the season. I think to everybody here he’s a rookie, but he considers himself a six- or seven-year professional player that’s pitched at a high level and he’s just getting ready for the season.”
You’ve told us stories about how Darvish hasn’t been shy about showing off his personality. What’s that say about him?:
“I think a few things. One, he’s got the big picture in mind. He’s not worried about a spring training outing. … He’s a baseball player. He’s good in the clubhouse and my take is he’s not putting too much pressure on any one outing.”
Where do you think he’ll end up in the rotation?:
“After the first week, No. 1 is No. 5 and you just keep going. It doesn’t matter. It certainly matters the first week, Opening Day starter and whatnot, but after that it’s kind of irrelevant. We haven’t sat down and looked at it. … Typically you want to just let the manager and the pitching coach make the call. There might be some other factors we’d consider that, but for the most part we let the guys in the clubhouse make those decisions.”
On Darvish’s comments that he’s been in the limelight since he was 16 years old:
“I can’t understand it. Quite frankly, other than maybe Josh Hamilton, I’m not sure anybody on the team or the organization can. Nolan [Ryan] was probably early 20s when he hit that level. Josh, in high school, was that phenom on the front cover of magazines, but there are so few guys that can really appreciate what that’s like to be the man, the guy, as a teenager, and grow up in a fishbowl.”
What were you thinking that you had to do with the club entering last offseason coming off a World Series appearance but knowing that C.J. Wilson was likely gone?:
“We looked at it and said, ‘We’re not going to break this club up because we’re right there where we want to be and most of these guys are in their primes or just entering their primes.’ There is the danger that you sign two or three guys that are in their early or mid-30s and all of the sudden you look up a year from now and we’re an old team. That happens fast. … We wanted to get guys that could produce now but that we could grow with.”
When Josh Hamilton made his comments a while back about not owing the Rangers anything, did that bother you?:
“When I first heard it, I heard it out of context. I didn’t hear everything he said and I had the same reaction everybody probably did. You kind of wrinkle your brow and wonder, ‘How could he possibly say that?’ I still don’t like the choice of words, because it has a bad connotation. … But I think hearing it in context and then hearing what he followed up with, I understand a little bit what he was trying to get across. I don’t think I would have phrased it that way. The only issue I had with what Josh said, somebody asked him a followup question and he said, ‘Well, I play hard. I give what I have on the field to the Rangers.’ For me, that’s in the job description. That’s the expectation.”