Yu Darvish threw 42 pitches and allowed 4 first inning runs in his Rangers’ debut last night.
Immediately when he started to struggle, he was labeled a “bust” on social media.
After one inning.
Was he not supposed to be nervous? Excited? Overamped? Trying to throw the ball through a brick wall rather than pitching?
It certainly didn’t help that he was pitching against the Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki—a player who came to the United States and did exactly what Darvish is trying to do by becoming a worldwide star.
Ichiro is heading for the Hall of Fame.
The Rangers did exactly the right thing in letting Darvish fight his way through and get into a rhythm. Because he was such a hyped prospect and cost so much money to get, the expectations were smothering and it showed. If a pitcher is trying to throw too hard and blow the ball by the hitters rather than adhering to a strategy, his fastball will run high; his breaking pitches will flatten or dive into the dirt; and he’ll appear to be out of control because he is out of control.
It’s a good thing that the Rangers are an outside-the-box thinking organization with a patient manager in Ron Washington, a highly-regarded pitching coach Mike Maddux, and Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan intimately involved in the way their pitchers are treated and developed.
There’s an understanding inherent in these men that a computer printout and mandated dictate of usage and strategy couldn’t comprehend or implement.
It wouldn’t have been a disaster of epic proportions or a potent to his whole future whether he pitched a no-hitter or gave up 9 runs in the first inning. If you remember, Hideki Irabu joined the Yankees, dominated the Tigers in his first big league start and eventually settled into mediocrity, laziness and self-destruction.
Darvish almost imploded, but pulled himself together, held the Mariners in check and gave his Rangers teammates a chance to get back in the game.
They did and Darvish got the win.
The win is not important.
What is important is that in spite of early wildness, he harnessed his stuff displaying a good fastball, a slider, a curve and a cutter. He turned what could’ve been a total negative into a net positive by slashing through his nerves.
That he was able to compose himself forms the foundation to believe that he can succeed. One start is relatively meaningless when looking at the results, but Darvish’s first big league start was meaningful in other ways.