Darvish makes a big im­pres­sion

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - DY­LAN HER­NAN­DEZ

AT­LANTA — What im­me­di­ately stands out about Yu Darvish is his size.

He’s huge. Like, re­ally, re­ally huge.

The mea­sure­ments of 6 feet 5 and 220 pounds don’t ad­e­quately de­scribe the phys­i­cal stature of the Dodgers’ re­cently ac­quired flamethrower. His shoul­ders are mas­sive. His chest is ex­pan­sive.

“He’s an im­pos­ing fig­ure,” pitcher Alex Wood said.

Watch­ing Darvish play catch in the SunTrust Park out­field Wed­nes­day was sim­i­lar to see­ing Yasiel Puig in spring train­ing for the first time. Even in the com­pany of other ma­jor league play­ers, the new­comer looked big­ger and stronger than ev­ery­one else.

“You see him on TV, you see the No. 11, but when you get in front of him, he’s very phys­i­cal,” man­ager Dave Roberts said.

With No. 11 al­ready claimed by sec­ond base­man Lo­gan Forsythe, Darvish is wear­ing the less-slim­ming No. 21.

“I think the 21 is go­ing to look great on him as well,” Roberts said.

So, if any­thing, Darvish passed the eye test in his first day with the Dodgers. He threw a bullpen ses­sion that at­tracted a small crowd of coaches and team­mates. Austin Barnes, who caught the 23-pitch work­out, was amazed by the move­ment of Darvish’s slider. Roberts said he was im­pressed by the

Ja­panse right-han­der’s English.

His first start for the Dodgers will be Friday against the Mets at Citi Field in New York.

Speak­ing in a 12-minute news con­fer­ence, Darvish was mea­sured with his words, but none­the­less man­aged to come across as earnest. He was seated along­side his per­sonal in­ter­preter, Hideaki Sato, who is nick­named “Sugar.” (Sato is a homonym for the Ja­panese word for sugar.)

He ac­knowl­edged that the thought of switch­ing teams in the mid­dle of the sea­son was a source of anx­i­ety. The pre­vi­ous 41⁄2 years were spent with the Texas Rangers.

“I felt a lit­tle un­easy join­ing a new team in the mid­dle of the sea­son, but there are a lot of good peo­ple here and I feel I’m start­ing to blend in,” Darvish said in Ja­panese.

He promised to be low main­te­nance.

“If I came to a new team in the mid­dle of the sea­son and started dis­rupt­ing the team’s har­mony, I think it would be re­ally bad,” he said. “That’s one thing I won’t do.”

Most of his con­cerns were re­lated to per­for­mance.

“I’ve moved to the strong­est team in the mid­dle of the sea­son,” he said. “I’ve thought, ‘What should I do if I hold them back?’ ”

He also won­dered about the phys­i­cal bur­den of hit­ting. Be­fore Darvish moved to the ma­jor leagues, he played for the Hokkaido Nip­pon-Ham Fighters. The team plays in Ja­pan’s Pa­cific League, which has des­ig­nated hit­ters.

“I won­der if I’m go­ing to get tired,” he said. “It’s fun to do every now and then. But do­ing it every time, I don’t know how I’m go­ing to re­act. I’m a lit­tle wor­ried.”

Asked about the bur­den of play­ing for a team that will be con­sid­ered a fail­ure if it doesn’t win the World Se­ries, Darvish replied, “I’m try­ing not to think about it.”

If Darvish sounded like some­thing of a worrier, he also re­vealed a dry sense of hu­mor.

He said he looked for­ward to play­ing along­side coun­try­man Kenta Maeda, then added with a dead­pan de­liv­ery, “I’m think­ing of tak­ing my time bul­ly­ing him.”

The line elicited laugh­ter from Ja­panese re­porters. He re­ceived a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion when he told a story about watch­ing Clay­ton Ker­shaw work out be­fore the All-Star game.

“When I work out my lower body, I wear weightlift­ing shoes,” he said. “With the Rangers, I was al­ways made fun of for that. But learn­ing Ker­shaw did the same, it made me think, ‘I wasn’t wrong.’ ”

Well, the line was fun­nier in Ja­panese.

His ad­mi­ra­tion for Ker­shaw was ob­vi­ous, even when he wasn’t kid­ding around.

“He’s the No. 1 pitcher,” Darvish said.

He said he in­tended to learn as much as he could from the three-time Cy Young Award win­ner.

Wood could re­late. Ac­quired from the At­lanta Braves two years ago, Wood said he has re­ceived ad­vice from Ker­shaw on ev­ery­thing from his between-starts preparation to pitch grips.

“Kersh, he’s great, man,” Wood said. “He’s an open book. He’ll talk all day if you ask him to. I know that feel­ing about be­ing ex­cited about be­ing in the same club­house as the best pitcher of my life­time.”

Darvish was par­tic­u­larly touched by Ker­shaw’s re­cruit­ing pitch to him at the All-Star game.

“I’ll be wait­ing for you in three weeks,” Darvish said Ker­shaw told him.

The re­union won’t take place un­til next week, as Ker­shaw is treat­ing a back in­jury in Los An­ge­les. Still, Darvish was beam­ing.

“It be­came a re­al­ity,” he said. “I’m re­ally happy.”

All he has to do now is pitch well.

John Amis As­so­ci­ated Press

NEWLY AC­QUIRED Dodgers right-han­der Yu Darvish, right, and left-han­der Rich Hill com­pare pitch­ing grips on base­balls.

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