MINNEAPOLIS -- Yu Darvish is on his third All-Star team, with a realistic chance of appearing in the All-Star Game for the first time on Tuesday night at Target Field. Is that enough to make the right-hander change his indifference about pitching in the game?
“Not really,” Darvish said through an interpreter on Monday.
The Japanese right-hander, who missed last year’s game because of injury and was only available to pitch in extra innings in the 2012 game, made his final first-half start last Wednesday, putting him in line to appear in the All-Star Game. Rangers manager Ron Washington said last week he planned to tell Red Sox manager John Farrell -- who is managing the American League team -– that Darvish would be available for an inning or 20 pitches, adding he hoped Darvish would want to play in the game.
But even for a contest that will be broadcast to over 200 countries, Darvish doesn’t feel any special urgency to appear.
“Of course, I feel very honored (to be selected),” Darvish said. “I could pitch, but I haven’t been told (whether I will).”
The 2013 Cy Young Award runner-up is fourth in the American League with 142 strikeouts, but a Rangers team beset by injuries has baseball’s worst record, a year after losing a one-game playoff for the second AL wild-card spot. Darvish said it can be hard to persevere in a season like this one, adding “people lack focus sometimes” when losses mount.
“I don’t tell my teammates anything (to get them focused),” he said. “They’re professional baseball players. They have to figure it out. In the midst of that, I just have to focus on what I’m doing.”
He said he wants to pitch deeper into games in the second half of the season, repeating a goal he stated in spring training. He threw eight shutout innings against Minnesota on June 28, but hasn’t reached the seventh inning in any of his other four starts in the last month. Still, he’s been better about relying on his fastball this season, like the Rangers wanted. He’s throwing it 55 percent of the time -- up from 38 percent last year -- and if he’s able to use the pitch to get quick contact, it should help keep his pitch counts down and enable him to work further into games.
But if he considers the All-Star Game any kind of special reward in a frustrating season, Darvish wasn’t admitting it on Monday.
“If I go to two more All-Star Games and not pitch at all, it’ll be a record,” he joked.