Sports

Yu Darvish main attraction as Rangers work out for first time

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Everywhere Yu Darvish went Thursday morning, between 100 or 200 other folks followed.

Most were media attempting to snap an image or capture a piece of color to help describe what stands as the biggest day of Darvish's entry into the major leagues.

Most, say 4 to 1, were from Japan.

Others were his Texas Rangers teammates and coaches, or members of the front office, or fans who woke up early in an often sleepy town to catch a glimpse of the biggest pitching story in baseball.

Rangers pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time this spring, and Darvish was the overwhelming star of the day. Even the Japanese superstar, who is no stranger to large media followings, seemed to question if all the buzz was warranted for a player who has never thrown a big league pitch.

"It's definitely not normal," Darvish said as he met the media for the first time since reporting Tuesday. "Even now, am I the kind of player who should get all this attention? I don't know."

A 28-minute Q&A capped a day that started with Darvish going through the daily routine with 31 other pitchers. He stretched, he long-tossed, and then created the most buzz in club history for a round of pitchers fielding practice, a bullpen session and live batting practice.

His new teammates didn't see anything to merit all the questions and photographs.

"Just another bullpen," said Mike Napoli, who requested that he catch Darvish and reported no issues with his injured left ankle. "I go through the same thing like any other pitcher. It was like catching Derek [Holland] for the first time last year."

Napoli and Holland, who has become Darvish's throwing partner, were ushered into a large tent for the news conference to accommodate the large media contingent. Pitching coach Mike Maddux and Triple A pitching coach Terry Clark, who watched Darvish during live batting practice, followed.

Even the two hitters who faced Darvish during live BP, Jurickson Profar and Ryan Strausborger, got some face time with the media. Both agreed that it was a good experience.

"It'll be a good story to carry with me the rest of my life, that's for sure," said Strausborger, who made contact three times against Darvish while Profar didn't swing.

Darvish threw 19 pitches during his five minutes of live BP. He said it was unusual for him to pitch with a protective screen in front of him, but otherwise had no problems with the larger, tackier ball that is used in the majors.

Clark didn't notice anything unusual in Darvish's mound demeanor, such as the apologies he was offering Tuesday for missing his location, and he and Maddux saw a lot of late, downward movement on his pitches.

Darvish threw mostly fastballs on both sides of the plate.

"It was very good. It was 80 percent, and to still make the ball move at 80 percent is pretty good," Clark said. "The field I was on, he didn't miss too many spots, so he didn't have to apologize too often. He was going about his business and was locked in on what he wanted to do."

Holland and Maddux said that while Darvish is the star in the media's eye, they don't want to have their attention taken away from the task at hand or from the rest of the team.

Darvish will throw again Saturday, and then every other day until the second intrasquad game March 2. The media will want reports similar to the one they received Thursday.

"Yu is a good pitcher, but don't take away from the rest of the squad," Holland cautioned.

Maddux didn't get his eyes on Darvish too often as he directed pitchers to their fields. Maddux made it clear that he won't be giving Darvish any more attention than the rest of the pitchers in camp.

"We treat everybody fairly, but we can't treat everybody the same," Maddux said. "This is not a Yu Darvish camp. He's part of the camp. The attention is spread amongst the 32 pitchers we have. He's going to fit in with everyone else, and that's what he's going to do."

Nevertheless, Day One of spring training was all about Darvish.

"I've been here a couple days, so it doesn't seem like the first day," he said. "I'm wearing the Texas Rangers uniform... Wearing that uniform made me feel like part of the team and that I have a responsibility."

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