KANSAS CITY -- Yu Darvish left Japan with something to prove. In his final news conference in front of his fans last winter, Darvish said he wanted to pitch in the Major Leagues so he could show Japanese players are as good as anybody in the world.On Monday, he joined many of the best players in the world at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. That would seem to be a good first step in accomplishing what he set out to do in signing with the Rangers in the offseason.
"I remember saying that," Darvish said. "I've tried not so much to prove it as much as to get Japanese baseball back up a little bit. I feel in no way that I've accomplished that yet. I look at that as long-term to back that up, I have to do this for many years. One first half and one All-Star Game doesn't prove anything. I have to continue to do this."Darvish was even skeptical about being selected to the All-Star team. He suggested last week that he was undeserving of the honor and joked that he voted for White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy in the American League Final Vote. But 7.3 million fans voted for Darvish over a 98-hour window in the Final Vote, an average of 20 votes per second, and so he took his place with his seven other Rangers teammates at the All-Star workout at Kauffman Stadium on Monday. "To this day. I really can't say if I belong or not," Darvish said. "But at the same time, I'm here among all these great players. I'm just happy to be here among them." Darvish is one of 13 pitchers available to manager Ron Washington. He is not guaranteed to pitch. Washington chose Justin Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, to start tonight, and said he's not completely sure who will follow the Tigers' ace. "We have an idea, but it just depends on where we are in the lineup and what the situation is as to who we bring in and what order we bring them in," Washington said. "As far as what we will get out of [Darvish], we will just have to wait and see how the game dictates it. But he is here as an All-Star because he deserves to be. Being a Texas Ranger, it certainly wasn't anything I did because of sentimental reasons. He got it done between the lines. " Darvish, in his first Major League season, is here with a record of 10-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 16 starts. The ERA is only the 15th best in the league, but he is fourth with 117 strikeouts. Opponents are also hitting .227 off him, the sixth lowest in the league. The numbers don't match the spectacular ones he put up in Japan, but the Rangers, who have $108 million invested in Darvish, are thrilled with what he has accomplished to this point. "With Yu Darvish, I think he's come over to the United States under some very tough circumstances," Washington said. "Not knowing anything about the league, not knowing anything about the players, having to adjust to the baseball, having to adjust to the mound, having to adjust to the different culture shock that he has to go through.
"And I truly believe because he's a tremendous athlete and he's a tremendous young man, he's made adjustments faster than we expected."
The biggest adjustment, Darvish said, was the baseball. Japanese baseballs are harder, wound tighter and slightly smaller. American baseballs have thicker seams."The fans are fine, the culture and the language is fine, the one area that was hard to adjust to was the baseball," Darvish said. "It feels fine now, but it was difficult. It took a long time to adjust to the baseball." Darvish said it wasn't until his seventh start against the Angels on May 11 that he really started becoming comfortable with the baseball. But the whole adjustment to the Major Leagues has been a process, and Washington said that the Rangers still haven't seen Darvish at his best yet. "I agree with Ron 100 percent," Darvish said. "I do believe I am a better pitcher now than the first day of camp. Not the physical part, but I'm stronger mentally. I'm not paying too much attention to small details and letting them bother me. I'm mentally stronger." That has helped earn him a trip to Kansas City. Now they wait, especially in Japan, to see if he will actually pitch in the game. They wait to see Darvish prove that Japanese baseball players truly belong among the elite players in the Major Leagues. He hasn't done it, yet but he is headed in the right direction.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.