Torrealba impressed by Darvish's arsenal

Torrealba impressed by Darvish's arsenal

Torrealba impressed by Darvish's arsenal
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish has at least a half-dozen pitches in his arsenal, perhaps as many as nine if you include adding and subtracting speeds on his breaking balls.

Since catchers come equipped with only five fingers on their free hand, this could pose a tactical problem in terms of communicating pitch selection with the big man from Japan.

"I wanted to take off my glove and use that hand, too," Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba said on Wednesday at Peoria Sports Complex, where Darvish's two-inning Cactus League debut went smoothly against the Padres in spite of a wind blowing in the pitcher's face.

In the afterglow of a 6-2 win, Torrealba was joking about pulling off his glove to add fingers. But it does leave one wondering how seven pitches can fit on one hand.

Ultimately, the one that counts most, setting everything else up, is a lively fastball on the corners -- and that is something Darvish clearly owns.

If his debut against big league competition told us anything, it's that the $111.7 million man has superior control and the confidence to use any of his complementary pitches in any count. But the fastball is his meal ticket.

While delivering 26 of his 36 pitches in the strike zone, Darvish showed his competitive nature as well as his celebrated repertoire in holding the Padres scoreless across two innings.

"He threw everything," said Torrealba, the veteran who shares the Texas catching duties with Mike Napoli. "Curve, slider, cutter, changeup, split. I called all of his pitches and he was able to throw all of them -- and keep the ball down."

Darvish throws sliders and curves that behave differently, giving him more than a handful of off-speed deliveries to mix with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs.

One heater stayed up in the strike zone and caught more of the plate than Torrealba intended. Will Venable lifted it off the batter's eye structure in center field, near the 410 sign, leading off the second inning.

"It was supposed to be more inside," Torrealba said, "but it was in the middle."

Darvish said he thought the wind helped carry that drive more than 400 feet, that it didn't feel squarely struck. The hitter and his manager firmly disagreed.

"Maybe his perception of reality is not right on," said Venable, grinning, while also praising Darvish's work.

"Venable hit that ball hard," San Diego manager Bud Black added.

At this point in the game, Darvish displayed his resolve -- and his athletic ability.

After Mark Kotsay moved Carlos Quentin to third with a ground ball handled deftly by a sprawling Michael Young at first, Darvish used all of his 6 feet, 5 inches to fully extend and stab a James Darnell comebacker. Moving on contact, Venable was out in a rundown.

"He showed some athleticism," Black said. "He got up. We were going, and Will got a good break. He made an athletic play, with a good throw home."

When Darvish struck out John Baker, his third K of the day, his work was done.

Dealing from the stretch, Darvish had started the game with a flourish, catching Cameron Maybin looking for a third strike. After Orlando Hudson hooked a double to right, Jesus Guzman's soft line drive to center was handled by Craig Gentry.

Then came Darvish's most impressive sequence of the day.

Quentin, the Padres' new cleanup man, swung through a 95 mph first-pitch fastball. With Quentin in two-strike protection mode, Torrealba called for a split-fingered fastball. Darvish knew what he wanted and shook him off. He unleashed a big curveball that Quentin couldn't touch.

"I've seen video [of Darvish], and he's as advertised," Black, a quality pitcher in his time, said. "He has multiple pitches, repeated his delivery. But no windup?"

Darvish, who tends to keep his answers brief, said it was his choice to throw from the stretch. The windup will come.

From a catcher's perspective, Darvish's multiple deliveries offer different eye levels and timing issues for hitters. But Torrealba agreed with Young when the club leader suggested the new artist on the mound should be content to just play hardball.

"Keep it simple," Young said. "Command the fastball in and out. If he goes out and commands his fastball, he's going to get outs."

Torrealba knows a live fastball when he feels it in his mitt.

"If he can pound the strike zone with the fastball," Torrealba said, "he'll be fine."

The game is the same everywhere. It's not that complicated when you can throw as hard as Yu Darvish, with precision. Just do it.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.