ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 14, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Yu Darvish was signed in the offseason to be the Texas Rangers' ace and that guy you'd throw out on the mound in Game 1 of a postseason series.
After some early struggles and some midseason hiccups, Darvish turned it on over the past month and a half and, sure enough, ended up on the mound for a postseason game — the only one his team played in 2012 in the AL Wild Card Game. While his team lost, Darvish pitched very well, going 6 2/3 innings while giving up three runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts and no walks.
He was removed just 91 pitches into his night in favor of Derek Holland for a lefty-lefty matchup.
The 26-year-old solidified his role as the team's No. 1 pitcher heading into 2013 and appears to have given the Rangers what they hoped for when they signed him — an ace for the long term.
His teammate, and closer, Joe Nathan came away from the 2012 season thoroughly impressed with Darvish's stuff, especially after he cured his walk woes, walking just seven batters in five September starts, after high double-digit walk totals in every other month.
"When he’s in the strike zone, he’s pretty tough to beat," Nathan told ESPNDallas. "The only time he really goes out and beats himself is when he’s walking guys."
Darvish's pitching coach, Mike Maddux, was most pleased and impressed with the way Darvish handled himself after coming from Japan and having rock star status from the moment he set foot on U.S. soil.
"He went into spring training and it was a lot of hype and it was like Elvis was in the building, the Beatles were coming into town. There was a lot of unknown about it and a lot of hype," Maddux said. "As the season progressed and the more Yu acclimated himself or became acclimated with major league baseball and being in a different country and all the things that go along with it, I thought he really, really matured and showed what everybody saw in him when they scouted him the past couple years in Japan.
"I thought that he really made everybody look good, including himself. The superstardom that was in spring training, that fizzled out, and once it fizzled out and he became one of the guys. I think that’s when he really took off."