Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish expects to make a smooth transition to the Major Leagues next season and the Texas Rangers’ expensive acquisition was quick to display a subtle sense of humor at his introductory press conference on Friday.
Last month, the Rangers posted a bid in excess of US$51 million for exclusive negotiating rights with Darvish and signed him to a reported US$60 million, six-year contract on Wednesday as the 30-day window to reach a deal was set to expire.
“I looked at the right-field fence and I thought that was in too close,” Darvish told reporters of his initial impression of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where the conference was held. “I was asking my general manager if they could move it back. I don’t know where they are on that yet.”
The 25-year-old Darvish has spent his entire seven-season professional career with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League.
“I don’t really feel pressure,” Darvish added. “I have no worries. I just look forward to seeing great pitchers and facing great hitters over here.”
“I don’t think I throw as hard as what you all guys say, but I’m confident with a wide variety of my offspeed pitches,” he said.
The strikeout specialist is a two-time Pacific League MVP, boasts a 155kph fastball and completed a 93-38 career record with a 1.99 earned run average in Japan.
“The name of the game is pitching and we picked up a quality pitcher,” Texas manager Ron Washington said.
“It’s special, we brought a special pitcher into the Texas Rangers fold. We haven’t forgotten what it takes to succeed. I’m looking forward to getting to spring training. I have been enjoying myself this winter, but I’m looking forward to getting there,” Washington added.
The hard-throwing right-hander helped the Fighters win the 2006 Japan Series and has been the ace of the national team, helping his country to victory at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
American League champions the Rangers have loaded up on Japanese pitching talent with Darvish joining relievers Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara on the Rangers 40-man roster.