More than 10,000 fans headed to the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido, Japan, on Tuesday as Yu Darvish greeted his fans and explained why he left Nippon Professional Baseball for the Texas Rangers.
He told the crowd that he wants to salvage the reputation of previous Japanese players who have come to the major leagues and struggled, and he wants to be known as the best pitcher on the planet.
"These days the evaluation of the Japanese players are getting lower in the States, and I disagree with it, didn’t like to see that the Japanese players were looked down upon like that,” said Darivsh, who signed a six-year, $60 million contract Wednesday and was introduced Friday at Rangers Ballpark. "I would like all the people in the world to say that the No. 1 pitcher is Darvish.”
Darvish will continue his off-season workouts in Japan before heading to spring training by Feb. 22, when pitchers and catchers must report to Surprise, Ariz. His agent, Don Nomura, said that Darvish hasn't thrown off a mound yet, except for the photo opportunity Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
He is looking forward to a new challenge after dominating in Japan. He went 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in seven seasons, and averaged more than 200 innings the past five seasons. In 2011, Darvish went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA.
"When playing baseball [these days], it was difficult to maintain motivation," he said.
-- Jeff Wilson