Our good friend Sam Onoda from NHK Broadcasting went through the painstaking task of translating Yu Darvish’s comments last week at the All-Star Game to the Japanese media into English for the Rangers beat writers. Sam will be compensated in the form of beer.
Enjoy this transcript. Clearly, Darvish is more insightful with the Japanese media, or maybe something gets lost in translation. Either way, Darvish has some interesting thoughts on six-man rotations and Tommy John surgery.
Q. Tanaka got injured, but you are able to maintain your health. How tough is it?
I think everybody has a hard time maintaining their health, and everyone has a risk of getting injured. It depends on how you lower the risk of getting injured. I think it is becoming to the age where the individual has to take care of their own body. I think that is the difference maker.
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Q. Have you changed the way your take care of your body after you come the U.S., or did you change it bit by bit?
Of course I have gathered information on my own and changed it bit by bit.
Q. What is your take on the increase in Tommy John surgery?
I think there are a lot reasons that are being said, and I don’t know the exact reason either, but I think it could be the way that we train. The way that we train nowadays is so that we can increase the velocity of our pitches. This is how I tell my training coach, lower body, back, lower back. If we concentrate on that area we are able to throw the ball faster, but we are not able to protect the arm and elbow. Since we are throwing the ball faster, there is more tension on the ligament, we need to protect that. So [the training] it’s not good. So I think that is the main reason. But people are saying throwing the splitter is not good, but I don’t think that puts stress on the elbow. I think the changeup has more to do with it as it catches the ring finger. The forkball is different, and I think that definitely puts strain on the elbow. The grip of a split finger is shallow and doesn’t differ much than the two-seamer.
Q. So you should work on the whole body?
If you’re not going to do it, it’s best you don’t do anything. The Japanese aren’t getting injured. In 10 years I only know three or four people that had Tommy John. There are very few in Japan. Over here there is about 10 guys that do Tommy John in a year. I think that’s due to the way they train. It difficult to train the lower body. You need to balance the training well, and also it’s the number of days between each start. I think that’s No. 1.
Q. Four days rest?
It’s way too short. That’s why they have pitch-count limitations, but pitch count doesn’t have much to do with it. You could throw 120 pitches, 140 pitches and have six days’ rest, and the inflammation on the ligament will all be healed. So I think that’s it.
Q. So do you need to adopt to the environment. Strasburg was young but had TJ?
It’s not about adjusting period. I think pitching on four days’ rest is fine. There are a lot more banned substances compared to 10, 20 years ago. I’m not saying they were using substances, but nowadays you can’t even take cold medicine. I think that may be a reason, too. I don’t think that Matsuzaka, Tanaka, Wada, Fujikawa had damage to their ligaments in Japan. When they came over here they had medical checks, so I don’t think they had any issues. So, it developed after they came here. So why? I think it’s the time between starts and heavier ball those kind of things.
Q. Do you think a six-man rotation will help?
I think that’s the way to go. But if you do that, the salary of each player will go down, but if you wanted to protect the player they should add one more spot to the roster. Five days, six days between each start. If you have a minimum of five days, I think it would be a lot more easier.
Q. What are you doing to pitch on four days’ rest?
A lot of things, too many to list.
Q. How about the firmness of the mound?
It has nothing to do with it.
Q. Does the start time of games have any effect?
The time of game doesn’t matter.
Q. Do you have less mental pressure because it’s your third year?
No, mental and physical has nothing to do with each other. The balls in Japan are very unified. Do you think MLB should use Japanese balls?
The bottom line is not to have slippery balls. If the ball is slippery, you have to hold onto it real good. To do so puts stress here. But Rawlings is a big company, and there is a lot of red tape. But I think the material used for Japanese balls are really good, all the balls are the same. Over here they are all different.
They are all different, the size, there are deformed ones. Japanese balls are all the same. It’s great.
Q. But four days’ rest is a norm there, so don’t you think it’s hard to change?
There are this many Tommy Johns. The top brass should talk about why it is so.
Q. Especially young ones?
It’s such a waste [of talent]. The top brass of organizations should protect them. I think by doing so it would profitable, so they should talk about it.