DALLAS– By David Naxon
There had been a growing hype around 6-foot-5 inch Yu Darvish over spring as he displayed nine different pitches in his arsenal. The highly anticipated debut of the Japanese superstar came Monday night in Arlington as the Rangers took on the Seattle Mariners.
But as the first inning took form in Arlington, Yu Darvish looked more like Chan Ho Darvish to Rangers fans. He struggled with command and location, allowing four runs on 42 pitches before getting the third out. His first inning was indeed miserable, but with his nerves showing in his first start in America, he did not quit and fought through the next few innings, just allowing one more run in the second.
He then settled in and sat down the next 12 of 14 batters he faced. Then the bats of the Rangers rescued Darvish from a disastrous debut. Texas went on a home run explosion. Nelson Cruz smacked a three-run bomb by in the 3rd inning, Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton homered in the 4th, and Ian Kinsler contributed a three-run blast by Kinsler in the 8th. The Rangers won 11-5, giving Darvish his first win in the Majors.
Darvish lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs, with an ERA 7.94, and still managed to receive a standing ovation from the 43,000 fans at the Ballpark in Arlington. The positive notes from his outing are that he fought back and ended up having a decent start outside of the first inning, and his command looked far better in the latter stages of the game. He found better command of his slider and curve ball, and had better location on his two-seam fastball, turning the horrible first inning into a good showing in innings two through six. Darvish will look to get back on track in his next start. He has all the qualities to be the Rangers ace for years to come, and now that the Jitters and nerves are out of the way, it’s time for him to show what he’s got.
Over the first five days of the regular season, the Mets have started an incredibly surprising 4-0. The deciding factor in all those wins, all by two runs or fewer, was excellent bullpen work. Rome may not have been built in a day, but the Mets’ bullpen was built in one eventful day that has defined the team’s season after a quartet of contests.
On December 6, 2011, Mets GM Sandy Alderson signed relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch and acquired Ramon Ramirez along with CF Andres Torres from the Giants for Angel Pagan. Alderson is one of the smartest men in baseball. He knew he would not be able to have an advantage over other teams with a juggernaut offense or a dominant rotation. But with so many relievers available last season, Alderson realized he could assemble a quality bullpen for a bargain basement price.
What difference has the new bullpen made so far? In games decided by two runs or fewer last season, the Mets went 34-40. When over 45 percent of your games are that close, a couple of key bullpen acquisitions could go a long way. New York went 4-7 in those tightly contested games last April. They’ve won the first four thus far. An immense amount of credit should be given to Alderson for big time moves that were considered an afterthought at the time.
So how is the trio of Francisco, Rauch and Ramirez doing so far? In 9 1/3 innings, they are 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, three saves, two holds, four hits and two walks allowed to go with six strikeouts. They have been crucial components of all four wins thus far, all close wins.
“Everybody is excited,” manager Terry Collins said. “We know that it’s a long year, but we want to show our fans that maybe we are better than everyone expects us to be,”
So far Alderson’s work on one cold December evening is paying serious dividends in April. And Mets fans are as excited as they’ve been in a very long time.
“I love Fidel Castro . . . I respect Fidel Castro . . .” for surviving “when a lot of people have wanted to kill him,” That statement has gotten Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen a five-game suspension.
In a city with such a large concentration of Cubans, the new Marlins ballpark is located in a low-income neighborhood called Little Havana, Guillen’s remarks were obviously not taken well and there was an enormous public outcry against Guillen, who just started his first season as Marlins manager. Guillen obviously has his constitutional right to free speech, but his status as a public figure means he’s a representative of the Marlins organization and the large Cubano community in South Florida.
Ken Rosenthal wrote a scathing column on Monday saying he should be suspended for a month. My boss at another website I work for said he would have fired Guillen on the spot. Freedom of speech protects you from going to prison for what you say, but there are consequences for actions like that and Guillen is now facing those.
“I don’t want to make any statement. Because I think when you make a statement, it’s a bunch of crap,” Guillen said Monday before the Marlins’ game against the Phillies. “I want people to look in my eyes, to look in my face, and see what’s going on.” Guillen said he felt embarrassed by what he said, but that’s hard to believe from someone who has rarely, if ever, had second thoughts of the outrageous things he has said.
This is the official statement put out by the Marlins: “The Miami Marlins announced today the suspension of manager Ozzie Guillen for five games effective immediately. The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
Well said, unlike Guillen’s comments. Here’s how he apologized: ”I apologize for affecting people directly or indirectly.” He says he’s embarrassed and he feels like he’s embarrassed the Latin community. Is it enough?