SURPRISE, AZ (CBSDFW.COM) – If opposing hitters have half as much trouble figuring out Yu Darvish as his own clubhouse, he’ll be well worth the Texas Rangers’ historic $111 million investment.
Before the pitcher’s ballyhooed spring training debut Wednesday down Bell Road in Peoria, teammate Nelson Cruz attempted to capture the buzz.
“It’s going to be like Chinatown in Peoria,” Cruz joked. “I mean, all the Chinese will be there. They all expect him to do great things and I think he can do it.”
Small problem, of course, is that Darvish is half-Japanese and half-Iranian, but Cruz will eventually understand.
And after Darvish’s sterling performance in which he struck out three San Diego Padres in two scoreless innings, he baffled the lines of communication between manager Ron Washington and veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba. While Torrealba confirmed repeatedly that Darvish threw seven pitchers – including “a couple of splits” – the manager whiffed on what he thought he saw.
“I didn’t see no splits,” Washington said.
Regardless of his heritage or his repertoire, no mistaking that Darvish dazzled in the most anticipated spring training debut in Rangers’ history. Yep, more than Nolan Ryan. And Jose Canseco. And even Alex Rodriguez. The game was carried live at 5 a.m. by four networks in Japan and ESPN News and the Padres, who normally hand out between 5-10 media credentials in Peoria, were forced to created room for over 150 journalists.
Even back in Dallas, a living legend from another sport was anxious to hear the details of Darvish’s performance.
“I’m a huge Rangers fan and I’m excited about Yu,” said former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach. “So how’d he do?”
March Madness, indeed.
There hasn’t been this much hype about an Asian athlete since, well, Jeremy Lin. But Yu is a different breed. While the New York Knicks’ guard bolted from the end of the bench to stardom in a flash, Darvish comes to the Rangers as a 25-year-old rock star who has dominated Japanese hitters since he was 18. The Rangers, who had scouted him since 2006, paid $51 million in December just for the right to negotiate with him, and on January 18 signed him to a six-year, $60 million deal.
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