Despite less fanfare, Darvish still big draw
FEB 13, 2013 2:43p ET
The circus that accompanied Darvish everywhere he went last year in Arizona has dwindled though. That has nothing to do with Darvish, who lived up to expectations in his 16 win rookie season with the Rangers in 2012.
But now Darvish isn't the story of spring training, which is fine with him. It's also fine with the Rangers, who are confident the 26-year-old can make more strides in his second season with the Rangers.
"He will always have the spotlight because of who he is," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Once you've done something and it's something you've always expected out of yourself, the challenge is just to make sure you cross your T's and dot your I's and continue to move forward. I think that's where he is. He knows the Texas Rangers. We know Yu Darvish."
That doesn't mean there still wasn't the spectacle surrounding Darvish, who threw his first bullpen and faced hitters for the first time this spring Wednesday. Plenty of eyes were on him as he went through fielding drills and faced Rangers minor leaguers Chris Grayson, Zach Cone and Royce Bollinger in a batting practice session.
But the press conferences that followed with the catcher who caught Darvish, the coaches who watched his throwing sessions and the hitters who faced him are no more. It was just Darvish and his new translator Kenji Nimura for his press conference following Wednesday's work. The tent, which was packed for Darvish's first press conference last year, was far from full Wednesday. The Japanese superstar hopes it's a sign of things to come.
"As far as the reduction in the size of the media, I think it's going to be a lot better," Darvish said.
The size of his following won't change Darvish's approach to his sophomore major-league season.
"I really can't control what other people think, but 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," he said. "I'm going to try and do my best here in spring training and during the season as well."
While Darvish welcomed the quieter spring drills, he wasn't the only one. Other Texas pitchers had more space to move around between drills Wednesday and didn't have to answer questions about the impact Darvish was going to have on the Rangers.
One person who didn't get to see the fuss last year was new catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who caught Darvish Wednesday. Pierzynski didn't face Darvish last year while he was with the Chicago White Sox.
He liked what he saw Wednesday.
"The ball came out of his hand good," Pierzynski said. "He threw strikes. He said he felt good and that's the most important part."
Pierzynski said he's never had to answer questions from the media following a bullpen session. But then again, he had never caught Darvish before Wednesday.
"I never had to do that before," Pierzynski said. "From everything I've heard he wants to be treated like a regular guy. Hopefully they can treat the catcher like a regular guy too."
The Rangers don't think Darvish is a regular pitcher and he showed that last season. He was just the fourth rookie in the last 100 years with at least 16 wins and 200 strikeouts in a season. His 221 strikeouts tied him for the fifth most by a Texas pitcher in a season and ranked him second all-time for an American League rookie.
Those are ace-like numbers for plenty of pitchers. Darvish isn't ready to have that label put on him yet. He'd rather have a different title – World Series champion.
"The ultimate goal is to win the championship, obviously, so I don't really know the definition of the ace of the staff," he 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."
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