On Monday night, Yu Darvish made his much awaited first start for a Major League Baseball team. If you’ll recall, the Texas Rangers committed to spending $112 million this off season to ensure that the studallion of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League was a member of their ball club for what they hope will be the next six years. That journey started with Darvish making his debut against the Seattle Mariners.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a debut. In what appeared to be a case of misdirected nervous energy combined with simple bad luck, Darvish allowed four runs on four hits and three walks (including one with the bases loaded) in a disasterpiece of a first inning that lasted 42 pitches. Thanks to the Rangers ever impressive offense, Darvish collected a win for his efforts, and in fairness, he did settle down after his shaky start.
In total, Darvish gave up five runs on eight hits and four walks over five and two third innings while striking out five. He hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, as well, but his velocity impressed and his breaking pitches seemed to have good movement. Disappointing, yes. A signal that the apocalypse is upon the Texas Rangers, not at all.
Last night, a debut of a different sort was made in Texas, and although it likely didn’t draw a whole lot of foreign media, Neftali Feliz’s first start for the Rangers after two seasons as the team’s dominant closer was yet another sign of this organization’s outstanding depth and unequaled ability to consistently transform itself into a contender year after year.
Feliz pitched seven innings of shut out baseball, giving up only four hits and two walks, while striking out four batters. Despite the results, it wasn’t a dominant performance by any means. First of all, it was against the offensively bankrupt Seattle Mariners who rival the San Francisco Giants for batting ineptitude. Secondly, Feliz had some trouble commanding his fastball early on, sending a ton of four seamers high in the first inning.
However, it was just a hiccup. With his fastball, averaging 94 miles per hour, not working like he wanted it to, Feliz used it to set up his 86 miles per hour change up, which most certainly was working for him.
Again, he wasn’t blowing anyone away last night, but it should be remembered that this was his first ever start. If there was any concern over the Feliz as starter experiment, his fifth inning showdown with Miguel Olivo, my favourite at bat of the game, should settle it.
Feliz’s first two pitches were sliders for which Olivo wasn’t biting on. He followed it up with a 2-0, 94 miles per hour fastball, slightly outside, but in the zone, at which the Mariners catcher didn’t even swing. Feliz followed that up with an 86 miles per hour change up that must have looked as though it was the exact same pitch to Olivo, who swung and missed for strike two.
Mixing speeds and planes, Feliz went back to attacking the zone with a fastball, this time slightly inside, but in the zone. Olivo managed to foul it off, getting to the pitch slightly late thanks to the previous change up. The batter took the next pitch, a slider inside, for ball three, setting up a full count. With an entire stadium expecting a fastball, Feliz went back to his change up making Olivo look absolutely foolish, way ahead with his swing.
As a baseball nerd, it was a perfect example of a pitcher working a batter. As a baseball fan, it was really cool.
The type of maturity that Feliz exhibited in that at bat, adapting to the count and dominating the sequence and command, bodes incredibly well for his future as a starter, and from a regular baseball fan’s perspective, makes him one of the best pitchers to watch this season. So, while all of the hoopla might have been focused on Darvish, it wouldn’t surprise me if Feliz emerges as the off season’s best addition to the Rangers rotation.
And The Rest
You can forgive Mike Napoli for getting a little bit shook up after this happened in the same game I wrote about above. [MLB.com]
Ian Miller wrote a guest column for Baseball Prospectus comparing Minor League Baseball games to rock shows. It’s awesome. [Baseball Prospectus]
There’s a chance that Victor Martinez might be back this season. Phew. Because that’s what Detroit really needed. [Twitter]
Is there anything worse than a brawl in the stands at a baseball game? Yes, it’s the comments from the people filming the brawl at a baseball game. Also, this is why you should never get in a fight with the row behind you, or when you’re outnumbered. That leverage makes it impossible for things to be fair. [YouTube]
Thank god, Toronto Blue Jays fans redeemed themselves last night by showing love instead violence. [DJF]
It appears as though New York Mets third baseman David Wright’s hot start will only be cooled off by a boo boo on his pinky. [Mets Merized]
Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse is out indefinitely after suffering a setback during rehab. Where will the offense come from now? [Nats Insider]
How the Chicago White Sox control the price of American gasoline. [McSweeney's]
Why we hate shitbags and retreads, with quotes from our very own Drew Fairservice. [Crashburn Alley]
The Kansas City Royals have plans for an interesting giveaway. [Baseball Think Factory]
Security for the Los Angeles Dodgers Home Opener was tight, including several undercover cops in Pittsburgh Pirates jerseys. [Yahoo! News]
Today in OriLOLes: They’re just getting around to figuring out that Mark Reynolds strikes out a lot. [MLBlogs]
The poor, poor Minnesota Twins have been grounded. [Baseball Nation]
Carlos Gomez cares not for drawn in infields. [Disciples of Uecker]
Finally, it was a little chilly in Detroit yesterday. [Rays Index]