Yu Darvish brings excitement to table

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Since 1989, the Texas Rangers have employed only three pitchers that folks paid their hard-earned money to see on the premise they might witness something unforgettable:
Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown and Cliff Lee.

We can add Yu Darvish, who makes his Rangers debut Monday against the Seattle Mariners, to the list.

Understand, this doesn't mean Yu is one of the best pitchers to wear a Rangers uniform the past quarter-century -- not yet anyway. Nor does it mean he'll lead the staff in wins or have the lowest ERA.

It means he's the pitcher most capable of doing something special on a given night because he has the filthiest stuff among the rotation's five starters.

And if he makes 32 starts this season, he'll have all of his pitches working two or three times this season. On those nights, we'll see something special.

Maybe he'll strike out a dozen batters. Or take a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Or do something else that has us fawning over his performance.

That's because his secondary pitches dart here and there, and he has several variations of his secondary pitches. It's going to be difficult for hitters to sit on a particular pitch on the days Yu has his good stuff.

Yu is also enveloped in mystery and intrigue because his domination during the first seven years of his career happened on the other side of the world. Few of us have seen him. All we know is he's 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, and has ridiculously gaudy stats from the Japaneese League, where he was 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA.

Yu is an enigma because he doesn't speak to the media often, and when he does it's always through an interpreter. Plus, you always get the sense you're interacting with Yu the public figure as opposed to Yu the person.

All of that adds to the excitement of watching him pitch.

When Ryan arrived in 1989, he struck out at least 10 batters in 18 of his 30 starts and threw a pair of one-hitters. Ryan tossed no-hitters each of the next two seasons.

In 1992, Brown allowed no more than one run in 11 starts en route to a 21-win season. And just two seasons ago, Lee showed us dominant pitchers could not care less about the ballpark's jet stream when the Rangers acquired him at the trade deadline.

Yu has shown glimpses of his potential in spring training.

Frankly, his primary issue this spring has been commanding his fastball, which had been erratic and caused him to pitch behind in the count much too frequently. You can't win like that in the big leagues -- let alone in the AL with its power-packed lineups. Mike Maddux is one of the best pitching coaches in baseball, so he'll help Yu make whatever mechanical adjustments he needs to locate his fastball better.

"There really is no way to describe how you feel during the middle of the season compared to right now," Yu said through his interpreter. "But I've done all the preparation and I'm ready to go. I'm ready for battle."

In his last spring training start, Yu struck out 11 in five innings against Colorado.

See what I mean?

The Rangers don't need him to be special every game, and he won't be. He'll get his butt kicked more than once this season as he adapts to a new country, a new league, a new ball and two new catchers.

Oh, and don't forget he'll be pitching every fifth day instead of once a week, like he did in Japan.

Still, he should throw 180 innings, average nearly a strikeout an inning and post an ERA of 3.75. If he does that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.

So will the magical moments.