Wednesday was a big day for our friends in the media from Japan, as Yu Darvish as Masahiro Tanaka were in action at Yankee Stadium.
Probably around 15 Japanese reporters and photographers watched all three innings of Darvish’s simulation game, and most charted all 46 of his pitches.
Others came along later to watch Tanaka.
They don’t get much from Darvish, though the right-hander has gotten better about talking to them off-the-record in the clubhouse. They deserve that break after four years of him not giving them much to write.
I suggested to him that he give another English-only press conference, as he did in spring training in 2014, but he declined. Actually, he looked at me like I was crazy and shook his head.
Come to think of it, it was a good test for his neck and shoulder. He’ll probably thank me later.
For now, here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 9-7 walk-off loss Wednesday.
1. The Texas Rangers’ bullpen has been a key part of the stretch that has seen them go 20-6 since June 3 and stretch their lead in the American League West to nine games.
It has also been a part of two significant ninth-inning collapses in their past six games. In fact, those two meltdowns are the Rangers’ only two losses in their past seven games.
Those things happen throughout the course of a season, and they happen way more than a team would like to see. The Yankees’ six-run ninth against Matt Bush and Sam Dyson resulted in the Rangers’ MLB-leading eighth walk-off loss, a huge number, and their fourth loss when leading after eight innings.
That stat feels like it should be more, but it isn’t, probably because of all those walk-offs.
But the root of the late losses is the same, the bullpen that was supposed to be one of the deepest and one of the best in the American League has come nowhere close to meeting preseason expectations.
Dyson has been exceptional, even including the five runs he allowed on a three-run game-tying homer by Brian McCann and a two-run game-ending shot by Didi Gregorius. But Dyson has also worked 41 games, which is the most in the American League and second in the majors.
The leader, with 42, is Hector Neris of the Philadelphia Phillies. Know what he and Dyson have in common? Each blew a save Wednesday.
Fatigue? Dyson answered the question he hates to hear after the loss, saying he feels fine.
Matt Bush, who has 22 appearances since May 13 and has allowed a run in his past three game, said the same thing.
Jake Diekman, who has 36 appearance and has either allowed runs or an inherited run in his past four outings, would say the same thing.
Manager Jeff Banister, though, has been trying to rest his key pieces, alternating days and trying to avoid having anyone pitch in three straight games. He didn’t go to Dyson to start the ninth with a four-run lead in the hopes of not using him.
That’s a departure from the philosophy last season and even parts of this season. Remember the 11-3 win Aug. 8 last year at Seattle, where Shawn Tolleson worked out of a jam in the 10th and the Rangers scored eight in the 11th?
Tolleson pitched the 11th, in part, as Banister put it, he didn’t want to give the Mariners a chance to build momentum heading into Sunday’s game.
That was Tolleson’s 49th appearance, not bad for August. It’s late June now, and Dyson is almost there.
The Rangers have a usage problem and have for some time.
Keone Kela will help alleviate that, at least in theory. The theory before the season was that Tom Wilhelmsen was supposed to be a great bullpen piece to have.
Shawn Tolleson appears to be returning to form after losing the closer’s job, so he can help out.
Though general manager Jon Daniels tries not to make knee-jerk decisions, acquiring a winning bullpen piece wouldn’t be a reactionary move. It’s not just one game that is the basis for the Rangers’ bullpen need.
It’s based on 41 games for Dyson.
2. To say that Nick Martinez was wild for the Rangers over five-plus innings is accurate, but it’s not like he was throwing wild pitch after wild pitch and hitting batters and mascots.
Some of the his five walks, he said, were the result of pitching around certain hitters to find a better matchup. And that seemed to work on a few occasions.
But Martinez wasn’t throwing very many strikes, as the five walks would indicate. He also threw only 38 of his 84 pitches for strikes. Yowza.
Somehow, Martinez entered the sixth inning at 78 pitches and with a 6t-1 lead. He had allowed only two hits. But he was pitching dangerously, and as soon as the Yankees opened the sixth with a walk and a single, Martinez was done.
No one could argue with the move, not even Martinez, who admitted that he was batting his control early and again late. One of the runners Cesar Ramos inherited ended up scoring, but a big inning could have been coming had Martinez stayed around.
After watching the bullpen fall apart, had Martinez completed six innings the normal order of Bush, Diekman and Dyson could have come into play.
After watching Martinez the past three seasons, that kind of control issue was a fluke, and it would be a surprise if he didn’t make his next start Monday at Boston. He’s not Darvish, but he’s better than the recently claimed Eric Surkamp or any other start the Rangers have in the minors.
3. Darvish isn’t going to be back until after the All-Star break.
“Absolutely not,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said.
Yet, there was talk Wednesday that Darvish might need only one more outing/rehab start before the Rangers would be willing to put him in an MLB game.
One more would get him to 60 pitches, which means that he could go to 75 or 80 the next time out after that. That’s not far off from where he was when he was injured June 8.
Darvish has a say in the matter. It’s his shoulder, after all. As much as he wants to feel as good as possible each time he pitches, I’ll take the over the one more outing. My guess is he throws a simulated game Tuesday at Boston and has a rehab start July 10 at Frisco.
I have nothing to base that on. OK, not nothing.
The Rangers have day games Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and simulated games are tough to set up on a day game. Monday is July 4, and sim games are really tough to set up on holidays after traveling to town the night before.
Darvish has no interest in going to the minors unless absolutely necessary. Since he’s not coming back before the All-Star break, it’s not necessary right now. He can mix in an extended bullpen session with the extra day’s rest before the Tuesday sim game.
Don’t be the baby’s college fund on what I just laid out. Things with Darvish are never as simple as they seem, not that my plan is simple.
Whatever happens, the Rangers could be in a position to line up Cole Hamels, Darvish and Martin Perez to open the second half at the Cubs. Derek Holland could be ready either for the series at Anaheim that follows or the series at Kansas City that follows that.
Add in A.J. Griffin or even a trade, and that rotation will work for the best team in the AL.