The barking started in his lower back. By the time Yu Darvish left Petco Park Hill on July 8th, the discomfort had spread to his waist and eventually put him on the list of injured. He missed another two weeks with this crooked back last month.
The 35-year-old right-handed Padres insists that all is well now.
However, his mechanics remains in the works as he tries to iron out the inefficiencies that have crept into his shipment over the past two months. It’s a process, Darvish admits, that only adds to his appreciation as he watches what Japanese compatriot Shohei Ohtani does between his launches and even on the days the 27-year-old phenomenon is climbing the hill.
The count to date: an MLB-leading 43 home runs in addition to 9-1 in 112 innings (2.97 ERA) with 135 strikeouts in the Angels rotation.
“I don’t think anyone has ever tried it seriously in baseball history,” Darvish said over the weekend as the Padres Angels series approached this week. “He has the ability to do both as a pitcher and as a hitter. That’s amazing, of course, but I’m always worried about his body.”
“If you’re just playing as a pitcher, the season is tough – the strain on your body – but he’s doing both and playing DH every day and pitching every seven, every eight days.
“That’s a lot of stress on your body. More than double the stress on your body.”
The angels are aware.
Ohtani’s Wellbeing has created a seasonal schedule that could result in the AL MVP favorite barely showing at Petco Park this week. He last threw in Anaheim on Friday and has less than five days off this year.
And with the DH also out of play and Ohtani, 27, not yet having to start a game on the outfield, a long-awaited match with the pitcher he mimicked while growing up in Japan could depend on Angels manager Joe Maddon seeing the opportunity to claim his best left-handed bat in the prize while Darvish is still in the game on Wednesday.
“He’s someone I’ve always wanted to face one day,” Ohtani said through an interpreter after hitting 100 mph at the seven innings start on Friday. “… It was my favorite mug when I was growing up. I mean, he just had gross pitches, made great throws, and his presence on the hill was amazing. It was one of my favorites. “
He was the favorite of many children.
Darvish eventually led all Nippon Professional Baseball pitchers in ERA, wins and shutouts, from the time he took the stage with the Fighters at the age of 18 until he left for the United States ahead of the 2012 season. In between, he was a two-time MVP of the Pacific League, five-time All-Star and three-time strikeout king.
Its cap was so limitless that under the old posting system, the Rangers gave the Fighters over $ 51.7 million just to have the right to negotiate with Darvish. The two sides eventually agreed on a six-year $ 60 million pact to begin his MLB career.
A year after Darvish left, the Fighters have their sights set on yet another high school unicorn. Unlike Darvish, Ohtani Nippon wanted to bypass professional baseball in Japan to immediately begin a minor promotion in the United States.
But the Fighters pitch included an option that was far from the beaten track in America: to be a two-way player. It didn’t hurt to have Darvish’s old number 11 dangling in front of Ohtani.
“It was of course a great honor for her to offer me his number,” said Ohtani. “I know what this number 11 means to the Fighters organization and all I knew was that I had to improve my game to be able to wear this number.”
The two eventually met with a handful of other players at a 2014 dinner in Tokyo after Ohtani’s rookie season with the Fighters. Since then, they have occasionally trained with each other in the off-season and maintain open text communication now that they are both pursuing their careers in the United States
While Ohtani’s handling of the bat goes way beyond Darvish’s wildest ambitions (the Padres right-handed openly touts the DH so he doesn’t have to strike again), the two Japanese stars are reflected in their approach on the hill – as different as they are their arsenal is (Ohtani’s four-seams is the weapon in his five-pitch mix, while Darvish can spin up to 11 different pitches).
Maddon, the Cubs manager when Darvish signed with Chicago in the 2018 season, had a front row seat for both generation talents.
“They both have a tremendous sense of pitch beyond what you normally see,” said Maddon. “That means Shohei (Friday) probably threw more fastballs because he felt like he did a great job: ‘I’m going with my fastball tonight.’ There are nights when the command might not be there and it just switches to more sliders, the curveball, the splitter, the same and the same way, using whatever is being played for them that night, whatever they are I know that Yu later started following a scouting report a little more with the Cubs, but for these two guys a scouting report is not that important to me.
“You might need a couple of nuggets. Just a couple of nuggets. You don’t want to disturb your artistry, you just don’t want that. “
As for their long-awaited showdown, which is sure to be a must-see TV in Japan, which was initially derailed in 2019 when the Angels visited Darvish and the Cubs because Ohtani is still after surgery on Tommy John that ended his rookie season Wasn’t ready to swing a racket from 2018. Darvish’s move didn’t fall on that series anyway, or when a makeup game was played in Chicago in June.
The Angels and Cubs did not play against each other in 2020. This year it was Darvish who was ailing when the two could have competed against each other in the All-Star Game at Coors Field in July, where Ohtani took part in the Home Run Derby and started for the AL on the hill and at DH.
Darvish was inducted into his fifth all-star roster in the majors and had been looking forward to the matchup at the time.
“If that happens,” he said in July, “I think it’s a great thing.”
His focus has since shifted to getting back on track for a Padres team starting the week with a one-game lead over the Reds in the race for second wildcard place in the NL.
That path will be easier when Darvish comes out of a plunge that got his ERA balloon to 7.82 over eight launches, sandwiched around his two trips to the Injury List and finding the delivery that made him an all-star Has.
An all-star game at-bat against Ohtani would have been an exhibition.
When the two compete against each other at Petco Park on Wednesday, a lot more is at stake.
Darvish is quick to point this out.
“I look forward to facing him,” said Darvish. “I have to look at the scouting report. It’s no fun. I have to put six to seven innings and we have to win too.”
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