SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The moment had finally arrived for a media horde gathered for days at the Surprise Recreation Campus, and it was over in less than a minute Tuesday morning.
Yu Darvish made his way to Texas Rangers spring training for the first time at roughly 8:30 local time, stepped out of an SUV and into the swarm of photographers, then made the 70-yard walk to the big-league clubhouse.
Within 30 minutes he was on one of the closed-to-the-media back fields for his initial workout. Included was a 30-pitch bullpen session to catcher Luis Martinez, who in all likelihood has become a household name in Japan.
Along the way Darvish made his first impression on his new teammates, and they were impressed. But an old teammate from Japan summed up best just who Darvish is to merit so much hubbub on Day 1 of his Rangers career.
"He's a rock star," right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama said.
Darvish made his introductions in the clubhouse and received a few words of advice from manager Ron Washington before joining other pitchers for some cardio and throwing. He paired up with Derek Holland while throwing on flat ground, and later with Martinez off a mound.
Both noticed something that they felt needs to be corrected. Darvish would apologize whenever one of his pitches didn't go where he wanted it.
"We're not always going to hit our spot every time," Holland said. "That's just how it is. We just work to make sure the next time we don't miss."
The apologies indicated that Darvish is putting some early pressure on himself. The Rangers' main concern for Darvish this spring is that he doesn't try to do too much while trying to make an impression.
That's what Washington tried to convey to Darvish before he took the field.
"I just wanted him to relax and be a part of things and not think that he has anything to prove," Washington said. "This is only spring training."
While Darvish didn't comment on his first day, which lasted just under four hours, Martinez spent four minutes taking questions in front of local reporters and the swelling group from Japan.
He said that it was just dumb luck that he caught Darvish, who moved onto the mound after Wilmer Font finished his bullpen session. Martinez said that Darvish worked at no more than 80 percent effort, except on the final few pitches that were probably thrown at 92 or 93 mph.
Most of his pitches were down in the zone, and Martinez was most impressed by three of Darvish's fastballs -- the cutter, the two-seamer and the split.
Martinez also said that catching Darvish was an honor that rated with catching Greg Maddux and Heath Bell when in the San Diego organization.
"It was a bit overwhelming from what he did in Japan and all the background he had," Martinez said. "I was actually excited and happy to catch him. He threw sliders, curveballs, changeups, splits. He threw 30, and within those 30, there were about 10 different pitches. He's unique in his own way. He's a great talent."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760