Darvish-mania begins in camp for Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is trying to tap the brakes early on all things Yu Darvish as pitchers and catchers report Wednesday to Surprise.

“You’ve got to keep this in perspective,” Washington said. “This is spring training.”

But you can count on perspective being all but lost as eyes of Rangers’ fans as well as Darvish fans in Japan will be focused on the Surprise Recreation Complex for the next six weeks.

Tuesday was a perfect example. Both Washington and general manager Jon Daniels addressed the media in a tent outside the clubhouse. The tent didn’t exist for last year’s spring training despite the club coming off its first-ever trip to the World Series.

The 18 tape recorders that were on the table as each man talked might already be a Surprise spring training high. There were four television cameras (three from Japan) for each of the question-and-answer sessions and plenty of still cameras.

Both Washington and Daniels were photographed as if they were Kardashians as they made the 10-yard walk from the team offices to the media tent.

So much for perspective on a day that was dominated by the right-hander, who showed up at the complex and threw his first bullpen session in an outing that was closed to the media.

While Darvish didn’t talk to the media, the 30-pitch session likely made catcher Luis Martinez a household name in Japan. Martinez, who hit .203 in 22 games with San Diego last year, was the man who caught Darvish and was the center of attention following the session.

Washington was on hand to see Darvish pitch for the first time in Surprise.

“He kept the ball down, hit his spots,” Washington said. “I think he threw about 35 pitches. It was a very convenient bullpen session. I’m looking to see him in competition. Bullpens are normal. He seems to be in great shape. For the most part, he was able to keep the ball down and hit the glove.”

Tuesday’s session was the first time Washington has seen Darvish pitch in person.

“I was anxious to see his style,” Washington said. “What I gathered out of this was he’s a power pitcher with finesse stuff. He can power the baseball. He can change speeds. He can sink it. He can run it. He definitely has a great feel for the baseball.”

Both Washington and Daniels emphasized that the key for Darvish this spring is getting to know his new teammates.

“I just wanted him to relax and be a part of things, not trying to think he has something to prove,” Washington said. “This is spring training. Spring training is to get prepared for the season, and that’s what we want him to do.”

Those preparations will continue Wednesday for report day and Thursday as Darvish addresses the media in the United States for the first time since he signed with the Rangers last month.

Daniels said the Rangers would take a common-sense approach to Darvish’s workload, just as they did with Alexi Ogando last year and just like the club does with every pitcher.

Daniels, who didn’t get to Surprise in time to see Darvish pitch, also doesn’t want to raise expectations for Darvish. He compared Darvish’s arrival to that of Adrian Beltre last year. Beltre was an All-Star for Texas in his first season.

“Obviously it’s a different element with the international media and the spotlight that comes with it,” Daniels said. “I think there’s kind of a transition period, a getting to know you period with any player, especially when it’s a significant acquisition over the winter like this obviously was. I just really want him to go about his routine, prepare for the season, don’t do anything special. It’s the same thing we’ll tell all of our guys. The finish line is not Opening Day.”

You could hardly tell that on Day One.