Darvish makes pitching debut at Rangers camp

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Thursday was a big day for right-hander Yu Darvish in camp for the Texas Rangers because he actually did something on the field.

Darvish made his pitching debut on the first day of camp for pitchers and catchers. He threw five minutes in the bullpen and then threw to minor leaguers Jurickson Profar and Ryan Strausborger for five minutes, tallying the most scrutinized live batting practice of all time.

He did so with about 150 media members watching his every move. Even for a pitcher who had rock-star status in Japan, he said he was surprised by the scene.

“It’s definitely not normal,” Darvish said. “Even now I wonder if I’m the type of guy that should get all this attention. Even I don’t know.”

Darvish threw 19 pitches in his live BP at about 80 percent. Profar didn’t swing at a pitch and Strausborger was able to put a weak grounder into play.

It was the start to what is expected to be a normal routine for Darvish, who will do the same thing Saturday and then pitch every other day until he makes an appearance in the team’s second intrasquad game.

He then followed that up with a press conference. His was the fifth press conference of the day at the Surprise Recreation Complex, and the fourth that was set up just because Darvish is in camp.

The good news for Darvish is that Thursday’s activity signaled a return to normalcy for Darvish, who said spring training in the United States is similar to that in Japan. Darvish was pleased with the facility and feels like he’s a member of the club, trying to pick up some English and Spanish from his teammates.

“I’m wearing the Texas Rangers uniform and I am part of the team,” said Darvish, who added 20 pounds in the offseason to get ready for his first year in the majors. “Talking to different players is the normal thing to do. I feel a part of this team.”

His new teammates were pleased with what they saw as Darvish mixed in fastballs, sliders, curveballs, changeups and one splitter.

“He had good command and threw all of his pitches,” said Texas catcher Mike Napoli, who asked to catch Darvish Thursday. “He’s going at 80 percent right now so it’s not like he’s going at game speed. The ball came out of his hand pretty well.”