Microphones, cameras and recorders surrounded New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge during All-Star Game media day on Monday. With the home run derby coming later in the night, a semi-circle of reporters four bodies deep formed to speak with him. But the player with the second-most attention was someone who won’t be competing in the derby or playing in the All-Star Game.
That player was Texas’ Yu Darvish.
As the only Japanese player selected, he was swarmed by Japanese reporters, who he joked with and smiled at. However, even though his first half of the 2017 season culminated in an All-Star selection, Darvish has struggled more than he has in past years, and he admitted he wasn’t sure he should’ve been picked. Especially since he pitched on Sunday, rendering him unable to throw on Tuesday night at Marlins Park.
“I’m not pitching, so maybe I shouldn’t be here,” he said before noting that Elvis Andrus probably deserved a nod.
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Nevertheless, Darvish has earned respect from his peers on the American League club, who don’t doubt his place. And moving forward past the All-Star break, he said he plans to continue building on that success, hopefully in Texas.
“He’s not a comfortable at-bat for anybody,” AL manager Brad Mills said when asked where Darvish stands among the top pitchers in the league. “So he’s gotta be right at the top. There’s no doubt.”
Astros starter Lance McCullers, who sees Darvish pitch regularly since they play in the same division, also gushed about his talent.
“He’s got, like, six disgusting pitches,” McCullers said. “I have, like, two and a half.
“So when you have six that you can throw for strikes whenever you want and they’re all plus, I’m not gonna say it’s easier to pitch, but he definitely has a lot of weapons that he can expose people with.”
But his numbers are down this season.
In his first full campaign since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015, his strikeout rate per nine innings is the lowest in his major league career (9.5). His record of 6-8 also isn’t inspiring for an All-Star, though that can be blamed in part on poor run support.
Darvish’s 3.5 runs of support per game are tied for fourth-worst in the game.
Still, some Rangers fans have called for him to be traded before the July 31 deadline because 2017 marks the final year of his six-year contract with Texas. If he could opt to go somewhere else, they argue, why not ship him off for prospects when he’s sporting the record he is?
When asked about that possibility, or the possibility of leaving Texas after the season, Darvish was cryptic.
“I really like Texas,” he said. “That’s the only place I’m looking to stay.”
So for now, he said his only concern is absorbing as much as he can from other players in Miami and enjoying the experience of his fourth All-Star Game in five seasons.
“You kind of get used to it,” he said, “but you always find new things. You never get bored or anything like that. I’m always looking forward to it.”
As for his goals after that, though, he was cryptic once again.
“Stay healthy,” he said, “take it one game at a time and do what I can.”