Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 3/7/12
PEORIA, Ariz. In what may have been the most scrutinized two innings in the history of spring training, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish made a nice first impression Wednesday. Before he took the mound, at least 150 fans gathered to watch him warm up in the bullpen. On the other side of the diamond, Padres veteran pitcher Jeff Suppan prepared in front of at least four people. At least 200 credentials were issued by the two teams, so the modest press box was packed to the gills. Normally in a spring training, you see players milling around in the dugout not paying too much attention to the game. But when Darvish took the mound in the bottom of the first inning, every Padres player was on the top step watching his every move. Darvish would later insist that he wasnt nervous about his first outing, but no one believed him. Not even Daisuke Matsuzaka got this type of reception when he made his debut for the Boston Red Sox, according to Rangers public relations director John Blake, who was with Boston at the time. It was completely quiet in the stadium before each Darvish pitch Wednesday, but then you heard a symphony of cameras each time the ball left his hand. He threw his first strike as a Ranger at 1:13 local time to Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin. He would throw first-pitch strikes to seven of the eight batters he faced. He struck out Maybin on a 2-2 count with an 84-mph slider. Darvish got ahead of Orlando Hudson 1-2, but he gave up a double to right field on a 92-mph fastball. The Padres would end up 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position against Darvish. Jose Guzman lined out to center field and then Darvish finished off power hitter Carlos Quentin with a nasty curveball. The game was broadcast on four different TV networks in Japan and the first inning was shown on ESPN News. The excitement for Darvishs debut started to build during the Rangers workout in Surprise on Wednesday morning. Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted to being excited, but felt like he couldnt show it to his players. "Followers follow the leader," Washington told FOXSportsSouthwest.com. "If I get out of control, it means theyll get out of control." If not for a 40-foot wall located in center field, Darvish would've given up a home run to start the second inning. Padres right fielder Will Venable destroyed a 92-mph fastball that caromed of the top of the wall. But that set the stage for Darvish to show off his athleticism. When Rangers first baseman Michael Young made a diving stop on Mark Kotsays grounder in the hole, he looked up and Darvish was waiting for the ball on first base. The pitcher wheeled around to make sure Venable stayed at third. He then used every bit of his 6-5 frame to spear James Darnells chopper and deliver a smooth throw to the plate to catch Venable in a run down. Darvish finished the inning by striking out catcher John Baker on an 88-mph splitter. Washington couldnt have drawn up a better scenario. His rookie pitcher wasnt perfect, but he was able to pitch out of trouble. As crazy as it sounds, this was as pressure-filled a situation as youll ever see in spring training. Darvish delivered on the mound and then he caused his first mini-controversy by being dismissive of Venables blast. "With the dry air in Arizona and the wind blowing out, it carried the ball," Darvish told reporters. "It didn't seem like a ball that was hit that squarely." Venable would later tell the Padres flagship radio station that hed like to see a little more "humility" from Darvish. He sarcastically added that no one hits the ball squarely off Yu Darvish. The Rangers rookie pitcher is supremely confident, as evidenced by a story Jon Daniels told on our 103.3 KESN-FM radio show Wednesday. Rangers top prospect Martin Perez recently asked Darvish how he fared in his first intra-squad scrimmage. Darvish told him he pitched "OK" and then asked how Perez had done in his first outing. Perez smiled and said it only took him 12 pitches to complete his inning. Darvish then instructed his translator to ask Perez how old he was. Informed that Perez was 20, Darvish responded, "Tell him I already had a Cy Young by then." As we said earlier, the man knows how to make an impression.
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