Right-hander looking forward to making his first start in Dodger blue
By Jaylon Thompson
ATLANTA -- The excitement buzzing around Yu Darvish, the Dodgers' recent trade acquisition, reached its peak as the organization welcomed him during a news conference on Wednesday.
Darvish spoke with reporters prior to the Dodgers facing the Braves at SunTrust Park and said he was happy to join Los Angeles in its pursuit of a World Series championship.
"It is an honor to be here and to play for such a great team that is having a good season," Darvish said through an interpreter.
Coming off a 7-4 series-clinching win in Atlanta, the Dodgers are an MLB-best 76-32 and hold a 14-game lead over the D-backs in the National League West. L.A. has won nine of its last 10 and is 29-19 on the road, where Darvish will make his Dodgers debut tonight against the Mets at Citi Field.
The veteran hurler joins a staff that has another star pitcher in Clayton Kershaw, along with Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. Darvish, who went 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts for the Rangers this season, is getting used to the transition and is excited to get started.
"This is my first time getting traded during the season, and I was worried a little bit if I could blend into the clubhouse and everything," Darvish said after throwing a bullpen session. "But the guys were really great and I feel comfortable. I am looking forward to playing for the first time with the Dodgers."
He'll be wearing No. 21 instead of his customary No. 11, because second baseman Logan Forsythe wears that number. Darvish wore No. 11 with the Nippon Ham Fighters and Japan in the World Baseball Classic, as well throughout his four-plus seasons with the Rangers, who traded him on Monday.
"You see him on TV, you see the No. 11, but when you get in front of him, he's very physical," manager Dave Roberts said. "I think the 21 is going to look great on him as well.
"I got a chance to watch his 'pen, and he was very focused and was a really good worker. The body is physical, and just seeing him in the 'pen, I was really excited."
The Dodgers hope that Darvish can continue his success down the stretch, especially in September and October. In 16 career regular-season games in those two months, Darvish owns a 3.23 ERA, and opponents are hitting .192 against him with a .299 slugging percentage.
He's also had success against NL hitters in his career. Darvish is 8-3 with a 3.07 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings. This season, he has struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings in four starts against the NL.
"It's great and it gives us a lot of options," Hill said. "[Darvish] coming into a team that is playing really well is great, and we have to continue to go out and do our job. We have to play the way we have been [playing] and attack the hitters, and pitchers with our at-bats."
One area that Darvish is looking to improve on is his batting. He has 14 career plate appearances, with three hits -- including a home run last season at Cincinnati. He said that he hopes to work on his bunting techniques and situational hitting.
"This is going to be a challenge for me, and I loved to hit when I was in the American League, as I went out there and had fun," Darvish said. "But you have to hit every time you go out there [in the NL]. There is a little concern about it, but this is the first challenge and we will see what happens."
Roberts isn't too concerned. He just wants Darvish to continue to be the same pitcher he was with the Rangers.
"We have a very good group of players here, and coaches," Roberts said. "He doesn't need to do anything different, as this is a very welcoming environment and we just want him to be himself."
Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.