Darvish impressive in spring debut

Right-hander Yu Darvish appeared in his first official spring training game this week, tossing two scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres. TheSportsXChange has details of the outing along with news and notes from Texas Rangers' camp.

John Baker faced Yu Darvish once Wednesday and had a five-pitch plate appearance.

And Darvish, the Texas Rangers' highly touted pitcher from Japan, threw five different types of pitches to the San Diego Padres' backup catcher.

"He started me off with a fastball," Baker said. "Then he threw me a curveball, then a split-finger, then a changeup and finally a good sinking cutter that he struck me out on. It was impressive. You just don't see that every day. He's been one of the great pitchers in the history of Japanese baseball and it's exciting to face him, even if you do come out on the wrong end of things."

The Rangers beat the Padres 6-2 in a Cactus League exhibition game at the Peoria Sports Complex but Darvish was the only thing that really mattered on a cool afternoon.

In a strong exhibition debut, the 25-year-old pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits with no walks and three strikeouts while throwing 27 of his 37 pitches for strikes.

The Rangers couldn't have been happier with what they saw from their $107.7 million investment. They paid a $51,703,411 posting fee to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters for the right to negotiate with Darvish, then signed the right-hander to a six-year, $56-million contract.

"I thought it was a pretty good debut for the rookie," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said with a grin.

It was hard to tell what Darvish thought. He was pretty much emotionless in his post-game press conference.

The Japanese reporters who covered Darvish throughout his stellar seven-year career in Nippon Professional Baseball say he was the same way in his native land.

"It's still very early in the spring," Darvish said. "I was just happy to face major league hitters from another team for the first time, but it is also still early in the spring for them, too."

Some of Darvish's teammates tried to have fun with him before he went out to warm up before the game -- but he could not be rattled.

"Some of them were saying 'you're nervous, we know you're nervous,'" Darvish said. "But I wasn't nervous."

Darvish kept his cool when the Padres put runners in scoring position against him in both innings with a one-out double by Orlando Hudson in the first and a leadoff double by Will Venable in the second. After Hudson lined his double to right field, Darvish got Jesus Guzman to softly line out to center field then struck out Carlos Quentin swinging weakly at a split low and away.

Venable drove a double off the wall just to the left of the 410-foot sign in center field in the second inning and moved to third on Mark Kotsay's ground out. Darvish then reached high to snare James Darnell's comebacker and threw to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who tagged Venable out in a rundown. Darvish then struck out Baker to end the inning.

The only time Darvish smiled when meeting with the media was after being asked about his play on Darnell's chopper.

"I was wondering when someone was going to ask about that," Darvish said.

Rangers manager Ron Washington was very happy about Darvish's play, especially during a spring training in which he has been putting an emphasis on pitchers' fielding practice. The Rangers pitchers had the worst fielding percentage in the major leagues last season despite winning their second straight American League pennant.

"That was a very athletic play in a key situation," Washington said. "He did a good job of helping himself there."

Darvish pitched out of the stretch position throughout the outing. He said his decision to pitch from the stretch or the windup with no runners on base is based totally on how he feels that day.

"You make your biggest pitches of the game from the stretch," Maddux said. "I certainly don't have a problem with someone wanting to hone their craft from the stretch position."

Darvish had tremendous success in Japan, where he was 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in seven seasons. He pitched 55 complete games and 18 shutouts while amassing 1,250 strikeouts and winning the Pacific League's Most Valuable Player award in 2007 and 2009.

Darvish will try to continue that success in the major leagues and the Rangers obviously feel he can help them get back to the World Series for a third straight season after spending nine figures to bring him to the United States.

"We have expectations for him but I'm not going to put a number on it," Washington said. "We feel he is going to help us to win some baseball games. He has a pretty good team behind him. If he goes out and keeps us in games then there is no reason why he shouldn't have a lot of success. That's all we're asking of, keeping us in the ballgame."

Rangers Notes & Quotes

  • Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he initially thought Josh Hamilton used a poor choice of words when he said he didn't "owe the Rangers" a hometown discount, though it doesn't mean the team is closing any doors.

    "I still don't like the choice of words because it has a bad connotation, leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth," Daniels told ESPN Dallas 103.3's Galloway & Company. "But I think hearing it in context, and then hearing it with what he followed up with, I understand a little bit of what he was trying to get across. I don't think I would've phrased it that way."

    Hamilton can become a free agent after the season, and the team ended contract talks after Hamilton's alcohol relapse earlier this year.

    Hamilton's full quote went like this:

    "The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I've got a question for y'all: Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I've given them everything I've had," Hamilton said. "I don't think anybody can say I haven't. When it comes down to it, people don't understand, fans don't understand, this is a business, this is an entertainment business.

    "I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I'm not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don't feel like I owe the Rangers."

  • The Rangers are moving Adrian Beltre back into the cleanup spot, according to the Dallas Morning News.

    Michael Young hit cleanup for the two-time defending American League champions in the second half of last season. Beltre was intended to hit fourth at the start of last season prior to a calf injury slowing his start. Then, Beltre hurt his hamstring in July.

    Beltre will be smack in the middle of the lineup this year.

    "He's a threat, and he can hit any pitch," Texas manager Ron Washington told the Morning News on Saturday.

    Young hit cleanup 89 times last year, Beltre just four.

    "My plan has always been for him to hit cleanup," Washington said. "But when he got hurt, Michael did a great job for us. You don't fix what isn't broken. I took heat for it, but Michael came through for us in Detroit. People can say what they want, but I'm going to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Michael delivered for us. We trusted him."

    Young hit .338 with 106 RBI last year. Beltre hit .296 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI.

  • Manager Ron Washington maintains that the center field job is wide open and said he isn't ruling out the possibility of OF Josh Hamilton being the primary center fielder in 2012. OFs Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin are competing for the spot. Washington, however, could opt to play Hamilton in center and start David Murphy in left. The Rangers did that against most right-handed pitchers for the stretch run in 2011 and in the playoffs.

  • 3B Adrian Beltre and OF Nelson Cruz, both of whom dealt with multiple lower extremity-muscle strains in 2011, both are being brought along slowly in running drills. The players have been urged to take it easy on the bases to start camp. They are also involved in a special running program with strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez.

  • LHP Neal Cotts, who hasn't pitched since 2009, is getting some attention from Rangers coaches even though he is in the minor league camp. He pitched an inning in Friday's intrasquad game and pitching coach Mike Maddux said he expects to see more of Cotts in exhibitions this spring.

  • LHP Joe Beimel (elbow stiffness) missed the first week of full-squad workouts. Beimel had elbow inflammation last year with Pittsburgh and missed six weeks before being released, but he said that what sidelined him this time was significantly minor and not related.

  • OF Jairo Beras and the Rangers agreed to a contract that includes a $4.5 million bonus. There is, however, a discrepancy over whether the Dominican Republic teenager is 17 and eligible to sign or 16 and must wait until July 2, when all teams will have a $2.9 million budget.

  • By the Numbers: 127 – Total in millions of dollars for the Rangers' payroll in 2012. The Rangers finished off their payroll by signing 21 pre-arbitration players to contracts in the week before exhibitions. The figure represents the highest payroll in team history, by more than $20 million.

  • Quote to Note: "It might add another hurdle, but I'd rather have that hurdle than have to go home." -- Manager Ron Washington on the possibility of the Rangers having to play a third round of AL playoffs in order to advance to their third consecutive World Series this season.

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