Sky-high anticipation for Yu Darvish's debut | Mariners notebook
A throng of Japanese media members swelled along the baselines here in the hours before the Monday night debut of Yu Darvish. Veteran Japanese baseball writer...
Seattle Times staff reporter
ARLINGTON, Texas — A throng of Japanese media members swelled along the baselines here in the hours before the Monday night debut of Yu Darvish.
Veteran Japanese baseball writer Masa Niwa, who covers the Mariners and Ichiro for Sankei Sports, said the anticipation of the game in his native country was at least as big as for when Daisuke Matsuzaka faced the Mariners at Fenway Park five years ago.
In that game, Felix Hernandez upstaged an expected Ichiro-Matsuzaka showdown by tossing a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 win. Niwa said that while there appeared to be fewer Japanese media members at Monday's game, the magnitude of the matchup itself was probably bigger than the Matsuzaka contest.
"Back then, Matsuzaka had already made his debut when he faced the Mariners," Niwa said. "So, tonight, it's not only Darvish against Ichiro, but it's Darvish making his debut as well."
Darvish barely made it out of the first inning, throwing 42 pitches and giving up four runs. Ichiro had a bloop single and a hard-hit double off him the first two innings, then added another single on Darvish's final pitch of the night in the sixth.
But by then, the Mariners had let the pitcher off the hook. He made it through 5-2/3 innings and left with a three-run lead, qualifying for the win.
• DH Jesus Montero came down with a stomach ailment and was not in the lineup. Dustin Ackley handled the DH role instead, with Munenori Kawasaki getting the start at second base.
Kawasaki was the only Mariners hitter to have faced Darvish before, going 19 for 86 (.221) off him in Japan. Kawasaki had a very good 2010 campaign against Darvish, going 10 for 19 (.526), but fell to 3 for 27 with three infield singles last year.
• Manager Eric Wedge said the team will wait until midweek before deciding whether Mike Carp or Franklin Gutierrez will head out on minor-league rehabilitation assignments. Both are working to get their throwing arms in game condition.
Wedge said Gutierrez will need a longer stint because he missed most of spring training and needs a minimum number of at-bats.