SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish, leading an international cast of teammates, was told by manager Ron Washington that he will be the Rangers' Opening Day starter on March 31 against the Phillies.
Washington had already said that last month at FanFest, but he told Darvish in a short meeting on Tuesday morning.
"Yu is the kind of guy that doesn't show a lot of emotion, but he was excited," Washington said. "He said he would work his tail off to represent us well and do the job."
There was little suspense over who would be the Opening Day starter, especially considering Washington did not consider anybody else. Darvish was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-leading 277 strikeouts last season. The righty finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
Washington said being the Opening Day starter is more than pitching the first game. It also defines who is the No. 1 pitcher on the staff and what is expected of him.
"I think that's exactly what the message says," Washington said. "There's no doubt he knows he's our horse."
Darvish, who is from Japan, could be pitching in a starting lineup that includes players from eight different World Baseball Classic teams, including left fielder Shin-Soo Choo (South Korea), center fielder Leonys Martin (Cuba), third baseman Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic), shortstop Elvis Andrus (Venezuela), second baseman Jurickson Profar (Curacao/Netherlands) and first baseman Prince Fielder (United States).
Catcher Geovany Soto is from Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States that competes as a separate entity in the Classic. Outfielder Alex Rios was born in Alabama, but he was raised in Puerto Rico.
"I never thought about it like that," Washington said. "I was just putting baseball players out there. I never thought of different nationalities. All of those guys are good players. It's not like we thought about representing different countries. They all have one goal: be the best player they can be."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less