There’s a new big star in Los Angeles, the city famous for them.
Yu Darvish, the All-Star pitcher dealt by the Rangers to the Dodgers at Monday’s trade deadline, has already made an impression on his new teammates. A huge impression.
“He’s an imposing figure,” pitcher Alex Wood said after meeting the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Darvish on Wednesday in Atlanta, according to an Los Angeles Times story by Dylan Hernandez.
“You see him on TV, you see the No. 11, but when you get in front of him, he’s very physical,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was born in Japan.
With his previous number 11 already issued to Dodgers second baseman Logan Forsythe, Darvish will instead wear No. 21 when he takes the mound for the first time in Dodger Blue Friday night against the New York Mets.
“I think the 21 is going to look great on him as well,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers are expecting his pitching numbers to look just as good. And they’ll need it, especially with their homegrown ace — Clayton Kershaw — still mending from a back strain and the timetable for his return uncertain.
After 4 1/2 years with the Rangers, a 52-39 record, 3.42 ERA and 960 strikeouts in 782 2/3 innings, he isn’t a newbie trying to fight for a role. He’s more interested in trying to fit in.
“I felt a little uneasy joining a new team in the middle of the season,” Darvish said through his personal translator, Hideaki Sato. “But there are a lot of good people here and I feel I’m starting to blend in.”
Darvish thanked Rangers fans and defended himself in a full-page ad in Thursday’s Dallas Morning News:
“Coming from Japan, I could not have adjusted to the new environment if it weren’t for all the courteous fans, teammates, team staff and all affiliates who supported me. It is my biggest regret that I gave up 10 runs on my last outing as a Ranger.
“There were a small number of voices that said, ‘Darvish only cares about strikeouts.’ Although I may have had strikeouts in my mind, fans, team, teammates and team staff were always my top priority.
“Thank you very much for everything!”
Darvish got in his first bullpen session Wednesday before the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Braves, which snapped a nine-game winning streak and was only Los Angeles’ seventh loss in 47 games since June 7.
He’s joins the best team in baseball (75-32) and doesn’t want to make waves, just ride this one.
“If I came to a new team in the middle of the season and started disrupting the team’s harmony, I think it would be really bad. That’s one thing I won’t do.”
Darvish, a free agent at the end of the season, is part of a rotation that includes Japanese countryman Kenta Maeda, who said Darvish is “somebody I admire very much.”
In addition to learning his new teammates and surroundings, Darvish will also be brushing up on his swing. As a National League player, he’ll be expected to step to the plate at least a couple times each game he pitches.
While he’s no Madison Bumgarner, who has 16 career homers, he’s also no Ron Herbel, who batted .029 in a nine-year career in the 1960s and 70s.
Darvish has 14 career at-bats and one of his three hits was a home run. That’s a brisk .214 career average with a .714 OPS.
Best of all, he won’t have to face Yu Darvish.