Darvish, Matsuzaka worlds apart

Rangers starter Yu Darvish on the mound against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto,...

Rangers starter Yu Darvish on the mound against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., April 30, 2012. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

TORONTO - Comparisons to Daisuke Matsuzaka began two years ago when word surfaced that Yu Darvish’s contract would be posted ... to go to the highest bidder.

The only similarities in the two are that both are from Japan, are right-handed and major-league clubs would go through the same blind-bid process.

Matsuzaka moved through the Boston Red Sox clubhouse isolated, bringing to mind a phrase about the Red Sox “25 players, 25 cabs ... with fried chicken.”

Darvish, who started Monday night against the Blue Jays, adapted quickly to become part of the best team in baseball.

The 6-foot-5, Darvish has posed as a cover boy of a women’s magazine in his homeland wearing only a sheet, with his arms folded behind his head. He pitched with an in-your-face flare during the World Baseball Classic.

“What time is our pitcher’s meeting?” Darvish asked pitching coach Mike Maddux Monday afternoon, sounding like any other starter ready to learn his next new group of opposing hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.

Matsuzaka asked for and received his own interpreter, a spring training housing allowance of up to $25,000, a housing allowance in Boston to $75,000, one-time moving allowance of up to $35,000, use of a Lincoln Town Car and a team employee to assist Japanese media.

Darvish’s agents asked for a similar package.

“Then they called back and said: ‘Yu wanted to know if Michael Young, Colby Lewis and everyone else has the same perks,’” said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on Monday.

When Daniels said no, Darvish withdrew his requests.

He could have been on the mound for the Jays on Monday night. The Jays liked him after six looks, but not enough to submit the $51.7-million US winning bid by the Rangers. Texas locked Darvish up to a six-year, $56-million deal.

“We made a presentation to co-chairmen Ray Davis from Dallas and Bob Simpson of Fort Worth that said this is not a deal where you are going to bid $1 more than the next guy. You have to be OK winning the bid even if you outbid other teams by $30 million.”

While the Jays saw Darvish pitch a half dozen times, Daniels guesses he and his scouts were at 30 of Darvish’s 55 starts over the previous two seasons, watching the rest on video. Joe Furakawa in Japan along with Josh Boyd and A.J. Preller were the lead scouts.

Jim Colborn, Scott Littlefield, Keith Boeck, Mike Daly, Curtis Jung, Hajime Watabe and Don Welke all were involved in the process.

Rangers outfielder David Murphy was with the Red Sox when Matsuzaka arrived in the spring of 2007 and he was in Surprise, Az., a few months back.

“Fort Myers was blown up, crazy. This spring, things were under control,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if it was the difference between Boston and the Rangers, or the fact (vice-president) John Blake was in both places and John was better prepared to handle matters the press.”

Matsuzaka and Darvish struggled in their initial springs in North America.

“He scuffled with his command, but he knew what he wanted to do,” Michael Young said. “There wasn’t any panic.”

Like there wasn’t any panic in his previous start when he struck out Curtis Granderson looking and got Alex Rodriguez on a double play ball to get out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam.

Murphy called it “a big statement.” Both the inning and the outing as Darvish pitched 8⅓ innings in the 2-0 win over New York.

“His fastball was 94-95 in the eighth and he touched 97 once,” Young said.

Much has been of Darvish’s pitch vast repertoire.

“He’ll throw three different fastballs: His four-seamer, a sinker and a cutter,” Young said. “He’ll also throw a slider, a change and a split — not many guys have that combination. He has a lot weapons.”

Whether modelling or adjusting to a different sized baseball, a different country, different mound and working on shorter rest than in Japan, Daniels and his staff thought they had someone who would handle any and all situations with “grace and class.”

“Yoshinori Tateyama, who pitches in our organization, was a teammate of his in Japan,” Daniels said. “He told Yu that when he came over years ago it helped to jump right in, learn the language, eat the food, be a good teammate.”

And Darvish has done that, save for not talking to Japanese media in press conference situations. That means the other 24 Rangers have to answer questions.

“In some ways Yu is a lot like Josh Hamilton, who was on the cover of Baseball America at age 14, Yu was a celebrity in Japan as a teenager,” Daniels said.

A pitcher from Japan wearing a Texas Rangers uniform, beat Kyle Drabek, a pitcher from Houston wearing a Toronto uniform pitching for Canada’s team.

The one so many Jays fans cherished worked seven innings, walked two and struck out nine. He allowed four hits, including a homer to Edwin Encarnacion of the Dominican and is now 4-0.


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