Yu Darvish arrived with more questions than answers when the Texas Rangers won the bidding rights and signed the Japanese right-hander before the 2012 season.
Would he be as dominant in the U.S. as he was in Japan? Would he break the trend and be the first Japanese pitcher who fully lived up to the hype centered on him?
Darvish seems to have put to rest all those questions 16 months into his tenure with the Rangers. He was an All-Star in his rookie season, winning 16 games, and is now establishing himself as one of the top starters in the game in his sophomore campaign.
“He has as good of stuff as any pitcher I’ve ever played behind, and the sky’s the limit for him,” outfielder David Murphy said.
“He’s unreal,” reliever Robbie Ross said. “You’ve come to expect him to throw up double-digit strikeouts every start. He throws a curveball at 63 mph and then comes back with a fastball at 96 mph. It’s hard to believe someone can do that.”
Darvish has gone 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his first five starts and is eyeing win No. 5 tonight against the White Sox. He has become a must-see attraction for baseball fans as there’s always a possibility he’ll flirt with a no-hitter or a perfect game as he did in his season-opening start against the Astros.
Darvish has become so popular among fans in such a short time frame that the Rangers introduced the “Yuniverse” this season, a special cheering section in the second deck, during his home starts.
“I didn’t really anticipate anything before I came, but I’m so grateful for the fans who are cheering my name when I’m out there,” Darvish said.
Darvish leads the major leagues with 49 strikeouts and set the Rangers’ record for most strikeouts by a rookie last year with 221.
Clearing the bases
Mets third baseman David Wright was out of the lineup for Monday’s game at Miami because of a stiff neck, although he struck out as a pinch hitter in the 13th inning. … Yankees star Mariano Rivera’s autobiography, “The Closer,” will be released next spring by Little, Brown and Co. … Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Laffey has chosen to become a free agent rather than report to the minor leagues. … Dodgers prospect Yasiel Puig, 22, faces charges of reckless driving, speeding and driving without proof of insurance in Chattanoo- ga, Tenn., after police said he went “almost double” the speed limit Sunday.