He’s bigger than you would expect. Yu Darvish, with his reddish hair and quick genuine smile, is disarming. He appears to talk to his infielders after some batters are retired. But to my knowledge, he doesn’t speak any English. (He is learning both English and Spanish to be able to converse with his new teammates.) He looks totally comfortable on the mound in this arid land so far away from his home in Osaka.
The array of pitches in his 25-year-old command is way above the norm. Not a four pitch hurler, Darvish is in command of eight, four of them fastballs. He even claims to have a famed ‘gyro’ ball. There is a little Bob Gibson in him. His fastball is heavy, very heavy.
In his four outings during Spring Training, I have seen him pitch in two games. The first was against the Brewers where he was nearly unhitable. Nearly. Norichiki Aoki, a fellow Japanese transplant this season, slapped a hit off of Darvish in the bottom of the third. This was a couple of weeks ago. What was impressive was the pop in his fastball.
Last night against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Flats in Scottsdale, Darvish faced the Colorado Rockies. He was flat-out electric. His fast ball boomed. And it was heavy. Case in point: In the 6th, after giving up a hit to Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez had his bat sawed off by a tight, inside heavy pitch, leaving him with only the handle in his hands as the barrel of his bat was stuck in the net behind home plate. He struck out for the third time. The following batter, All-Star Troy Tulowitzki did the same, again for the third time in the game. This time it was on a slurve that took the wind out of the swing of the gold glove/silver slugger winning hitter. For the night, 6 innings. 98 pitches. 3 runs; 6 hits; 1 walk; and 11 strike outs.
For Spring Training, 15 1/3rd innings, 21 strike outs. You do the math.
The quickness of his pitch. The lively arm. He is the real deal.
For those who have an opportunity to see this amazing, young pitcher this season, you will see unmistakable signs of greatness. For those who have tickets to the Texas Rangers home opener in Arlington on April 9th, in the top of the first, there will be a matchup of the ages. When Ichiro walks up to the plate, rubs the inside of his left shoulder pulling slightly at the jersey with his batting instrument raising skyward in his left hand, slowly drops his left arm and transfers his bat to his right hand, and points it straight at Yu to begin his process of preparation in the box, the beginning of THE moment will be upon us. That time…that place will be an historic event our game rarely sees. The entire at-bat will be worth the price of admission.
It’s time for the real games to begin. The anticipation of moments like this is what dreams are made of. Field of Dreams? No. It is a ‘World full of Dreams’. It is what makes baseball, baseball.