Will Yu Darvish be an ace in 2013?
|The Rangers are in full training mode in Surprise, Ariz. Ben and Skin discuss which players are key, who needs to step up and more. |
The Rangers didn’t invest $107 million in Darvish because they believed he could be an innings-eater in the middle of the rotation. No, Darvish is supposed to be an ace. And he looked like one in his final eight starts of 2012, when he went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA. All eight of his outings were quality starts.
“I think he found himself his last eight or nine starts of the season,” manager Ron Washington said. “He began to concentrate on what he can do and how to do it and he did it. That sounds simple, but he had a lot of adjustments to make and he did it. I think his confidence is where it should be.”
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesYu Darvish went went 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA over his final eight starts last season.
“He’s a very smart kid. He knew what he was doing out there that day when I spoke with him,” Washington said. “I reiterated what he was feeling. Sometimes you connect like that. Sometimes it takes a longer period of time to connect. That day he felt good about what he did the night before, and it was nice that we connected because I said the same things he felt. That’s why it worked.”
Darvish took all he learned in the first four months of the season and applied it to the final two. He walked only 15 batters in those in those final eight starts and had 67 strikeouts. Opponents hit .176 against him in that span.
Last year, Darvish's first throwing session to live hitters was watched by probably 100 members of the media and just as many fans. Every move he made -- heck, the catcher that caught his first bullpen was front-page news in Japan -- was a big deal. Everything was new.
But now, a year after finishing third in the AL rookie of the year balloting and going through an entire season in the big leagues, Darvish isn't dealing with throngs of cameras. He threw to three hitters Wednesday and went about his work without nearly the amount of attention he got this time last year.
Darvish isn't worried about any of it. His job is to get ready for the 2013 season and prove that he can pitch like he did in those final two months.
"What I have to do is do my job here at spring training and do the best I can during the season, and whatever the result is at the end of the season that's what I'm going to have," Darvish said through interpreter Kenji Nimura. "I'm going to try to do my best here in spring training and during the season, as well."
Darvish is no longer a rookie. He made it through an up-and-down first year full of adjustments and ended up proving, especially down the stretch, that he could get big league hitters out like he did for years in Japan. Now comes a tougher challenge: proving he can sustain it for an entire season.
"We’re just looking for consistency from him," Daniels said. "His natural ability and competitive makeup are going to take him a long way. He’s going to figure some things out. If he’s consistent from start to start, I won’t put numbers on it, but obviously you know what we think of him."
He certainly looked like an ace at the end of 2012. I think after a full year of adjustments and being able to bounce back from some rough outings that Darvish will be even better in 2013. There's a difference between a No. 1 and an ace. But I think Darvish has ace stuff. When the Rangers were scuffling at times down the stretch, you believed that Darvish would get on the mound and stop a losing streak or get them back on track. That's what aces do.
Darvish showed he could stay at a high level even as the pressure of a pennant race increased down the stretch. That's the Darvish the Rangers want to see this season. He appears ready.
"The ultimate goal is to win the championship, obviously, so I don't really know the definition of the ace of the staff," Darvish said. "If you're the first in the rotation, it doesn't mean you're the ace. But the most important thing is that everyone in the rotation stays healthy and be in there in October and win the championship, and that's my goal."
Do you think Darvish will be an ace in 2013?
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus joins Galloway & Company to discuss having Scott Boras as his agent, his new contract and having Jurickson Profar in the lineup.
Play Podcast Rangers manager Ron Washington joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit to discuss Yu Darvish's pitch count and how he spends time in the clubhouse during weather delays.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway & Company for his weekly visit to discuss the latest Rangers news.
Play Podcast Reid Ryan joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his new position with the Houston Astros and whether he could see his dad, Nolan, joining him there in the future.
Play Podcast ESPN MLB Insider Jayson Stark joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss if the Rangers are the best team in baseball, what makes them so good and if he thinks the team will trade Jurickson Profar.
Play Podcast Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Ron Washington's decision to send Yu Darvish to the mound for the eighth inning Thursday night and how he would handle a situation like that if he were still a GM.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley and Glenn "Stretch" Smith discuss the latest Rangers news, including the Yu Darvish-Justin Verlander matchup.
Play Podcast Nelson Cruz joins Galloway & Company to discuss the Rangers' series in Oakland, his ups and downs at the plate and if the PED talks before the season were a distraction.