Gil LeBreton

Yu Darvish has unfinished business for Rangers

Yu Darvish, left, is “in great shape. I think it’s going to be a big season for him,” catcher Robinson Chirinos, right, said after Wednesday’s throwing session.
Yu Darvish, left, is “in great shape. I think it’s going to be a big season for him,” catcher Robinson Chirinos, right, said after Wednesday’s throwing session. Star-Telegram

In his three seasons of American baseball, pitcher Yu Darvish has been named to the league’s All-Star team three times.

Few pitchers over those three seasons have given up fewer hits. Few have struck out more batters. Few have been more entertaining to watch.

And few, if any, Japanese-born major leaguers have proven to be so worth their contract — six years, $56 million in Darvish’s case, plus a rich $51.7 million posting fee.

Yet, for some reason, Darvish’s ledger as a Texas Ranger smacks of unfinished business, an incomplete canvas.

He was signed amidst considerable fanfare and hailed as the most talented pitcher from his nation ever to jump to the major leagues.

But where are the American League pennants that Darvish’s résumé seemed to promise? Where are the October rides off the field on the shoulders of his teammates?

Where’s the Nike commercial? Where’s Yu doing Whataburger ads?

You hardly know him, though, don’t you?

You know his fantasy baseball numbers and his Wikipedia bio. But the rest has either been hidden behind the curtain that Rangers, Inc., has drawn for him or it’s been lost in translation.

Fans here are respectful of an athlete’s personal life. Those aren’t the details that are missing.

Rather, what does Darvish think about things? What kind of movies does he like? Does he even like Whataburgers? Why does he still not pitch from a windup?

Ostensibly, there is a language barrier. I know if I was being interviewed in a strange language, I too would want an able interpreter at my side.

But we’re not English professors here. His teammates and coaches say that after three seasons Darvish has no problem conversing with them in fluent English — when he’s not off by himself somewhere, doing his personal regimen.

Silence can lead to confusion. Thus, under former manager Ron Washington, Darvish’s occasional absences from the mound were often publicly misconstrued. Rangers, Inc., made it worse last season by misrepresenting — whether intentional or otherwise — the elbow problem that forced Yu to be shut down in mid-August.

Fans, media and, frankly, a few of his own teammates weighed in on Darvish’s absence.

It was proper, I feel, for Darvish and Rangers, Inc., to believe that an early end to the disastrous 2014 season could have benefits for him moving ahead.

And so far, so good in this spring training camp. Pitching coach Mike Maddux called Darvish’s throwing session Wednesday in front of live hitters “sharp. Guys couldn’t even pull the trigger on him, and when they did they had a hard time.”

The man who caught him, Rob Chirinos, said, “He asked me afterwards how his fastball looked, and I said it was jumping out of his hand.

“I saw him in Arlington working every day, getting ready for this year. I think he’s in great shape. I think it’s going to be a big season for him.”

When asked the other day whether he expected 200 innings from Darvish this season, new manager Jeff Banister thought a minute and answered, “What I would like for Darvish is to make all the starts.”

That’s what every pitcher wants, however, Darvish himself said Wednesday, saying there was no need to comment any further.

Maybe not. But it would have been a good time — in Japanese or English — for Yu to muse about a few things, like how he felt about ending his 2014 season early, or how he likes the new manager, or whether he, too, shares the fans’ frustrations of the past three seasons.

You know, lift the curtain a bit.

Nobody here should doubt Yu Darvish’s pitching ability.

It’s the incomplete stuff, the unfinished symphony, that’s the issue.

In the meantime, people are listening.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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