April 9, 2012: As the top of the second inning came to a close, many Rangers fans probably found themselves questioning a big winter move made by the club’s management. Yu Darvish was making not only his MLB debut, but it was also his home debut. At the close of that second inning, he had already amassed five earned runs, bringing his ERA to a 7.94 at the end of his night. After that inning, though, Yu showed the Rangers his tough side. He fought hard to not let things get worse and that fight, paired with his Ranger brothers picking him up offensively, helped his team win that game against Seattle 11-5. A win is always appreciated, no matter how pretty or ugly, but many people were probably still left with a twinge of suspicion as to whether Yu would work out or not. Time would only tell.
July 3o, 2012: The Rangers trade for catcher Geovany Soto, with one day remaining before the non-waiver deadline ended.
August 7-8, 2012: Since the beginning of July, Darvish was 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA. The offense was going through it’s own rough spell, but Darvish had his downturn come to a head on August 6 in Boston. He gave up six runs on eleven hits, walked four and struck out nine over six and two-thirds innings. The next day, in a pregame interview, Ron Washington mentioned that he had Darvish come talk to him the next day to just clear some air and make sure he was ok. In the end, Washington felt like the talk helped Darvish feel relaxed and helped get his mind back on baseball. After that talk, Darvish did seem to right the ship and get back to a more consistent pitcher that we had seen before.
August 28, 2012: After skipping a start due to a tight quadriceps muscle in his right arm, Darvish returned that night to take on Tampa Bay. He pitched seven scoreless innings and looked absolutely brilliant against a very tough Rays team. After the game, Ron Washington mentioned something that took me by surprise:
“Finally, he decided in his own mind that he’s just going to go out there and he’s going to compete; since he decided that, and took everything else out of the equation, I think you’ll see he will be throwing the ball just as well at home as he is on the road. Sometime pitchers do that. I don’t know the answer, but I can say in his case, he was carrying a lot of baggage. And I think he done dumped the baggage. So we’ve got Yu Darvish now.”
I’ve moved before and, while moving is never easy, I never had to adjust to life outside of Texas. I can only imagine what it would take to move to a completely different country, adjust to a new way of doing my job and adjust to a new culture as well. Oh, and let’s not forget getting divorced and having to leave two children behind. Yeah, I can see where he’d have a million and one things on his mind constantly. Wash is right, though. Since he has decided to trust himself and his Ranger brothers completely and leave everything else off of the diamond, he has been electric, confident and just a little more fired up. In his last two go rounds with Tampa and Seattle, he has been visibly fired up on the field, even to the point of giving off a few celebratory chest pumps as he’d strike out another batter or get a great defensive play from his fielders behind him. I get the impression that maybe one or a few people told him it’s ok to be fired up and a little cocky and to show excitement when something good happens. He is still humble and down to earth, but I think it’s doing him well to be able to just enjoy playing baseball and have fun with it all.
September 22, 2012: I mentioned those dates because, to me, they are important to remember as we look back at Darvish’s rookie season in the U.S. After August 8, he has been the dominant Yu we came to expect when we all took to YouTube in December to see videos of him in Japan. He is back to going very deep into each outing, getting strikeouts when possible, but he is also doing what he needs to get the ball to his defenders behind him and let them help him out as well.
I specifically mentioned July 30 because Soto has been a big part of helping solidify Darvish. I know pitchers aren’t usually assigned catchers in the MLB, but Soto is great at handling Darvish, especially when having to be the primary in the absence of Mike Napoli. It has been observed by many that it may be most beneficial for the club to not split up the battery mates and I would have to agree. The consistency of working with one catcher seems to help Darvish and, unless Soto needs or is required to sit a game that Darvish is starting, I would applaud the move to keep them paired through the playoffs.