03/07/12 7:22 PM EST
Padres find Darvish is as good as advertised
Rangers righty fans three in two innings while making debut
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
Pity poor John Baker, the Padres' starting catcher on Wednesday, because in his first game action of the spring -- merely looking to get his timing down against the Rangers -- he was instead left feeling every bit as overwhelmed as when the virus found him last weekend.
"I saw five different pitches in my at-bat ... that's something you don't usually see," Baker said. "I got a sinker, a cutter, a curveball and a [split-finger fastball]. You don't usually see that right off the bat for your first at-bat of Spring Training.
"That was kind of like getting thrown into the fire."
Baker was actually the last batter Yu Darvish -- the Japanese hurler who signed a six-year, $56 million deal in January -- faced in the Rangers' 6-2 victory over the Padres. Baker's strikeout was one of three that Darvish accumulated during two scoreless innings that saw him allow two hits.
"You look for things from guys: velocity, command, movement ... he showed all of those," Baker said. "I was impressed. It's tough to live up to the hype coming into something like this but at the same time, I feel like he is a front-of-the-line Major League starter."
That certainly remains to be seen, though the sentiment Wednesday -- from friend and foe alike -- was that Darvish has some very good things going for him if small samples sizes are any indication of, well, anything.
"He's good, man," said Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson, who doubled to right field in the first inning off Darvish. "That dude is big [6-foot-5], so you knew his fastball would be live. Good stuff, great poise. He knows what he's doing. That's a great thing."
The Padres stressed Darvish a little as Hudson doubled with one out in the first inning but was left on second base after Jesus Guzman lined out to center field and Carlos Quentin missed on a curveball for an inning-ending strikeout.
Will Venable then led off the second inning by getting deep into a 92-mph fastball, sending it about 30 feet up the center-field wall that's located 410 feet from home plate. Afterward, in his interview with many of the 150 or so members of the media, Darvish implied that he didn't think Venable hit the ball that well.
That made Venable laugh.
"Maybe his perception of reality is not right on," he said.
Venable eventually advanced to third base, and it appeared he might score when James Darnell sent a high comebacker up the middle. But Darvish -- and remember, he's 6-foot-5 -- made a leaping stab of the ball and threw home to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who tagged Venable, trying to score on contact.
"It's a good combination of stuff. It looks like he's got a lot of different pitches. He's great for baseball, great for the Rangers," Darnell said.
San Diego manager Bud Black, a former pitcher himself, said there was a lot to like about Darvish -- that he can throw a multitude of pitches for strikes and that he's able to repeat his delivery.
"I have seen a little bit of video and he is as advertised," Black said.