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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 29, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Yu Darvish will make Rangers’ debut against Mariners; Will Ichiro face him with the zeal of a challenger?

darvishspring.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

Yu Darvish will make his first start for the Texas Rangers — the most anticipated MLB debut by a Japanese pitcher since Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007 — against the Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday, April 9. Rangers manager Ron Washington announced his rotation today, and Darvish is set to start their fourth game, following Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, who will work Texas’s season-opening three-game series against the White Sox.

That means the third batter Darvish will face will be Ichiro. Think that matchup will get any coverage from the Japanese media?

Dice-K also made his home debut against the Mariners, back on April 11, 2007, and the first batter he faced was Ichiro, inspiring the quote that faithful readers know I like to drag out for any reason I can. In my opinion, this is not only the best Ichiro quote ever (and there are numerous candidates), but also one of the top quotes I’ve ever heard from an athlete. It came in a Seattle Times story by Brad Lefton on Ichiro’s feelings about facing Dice-K for the first time in MLB: “I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger.”

The upshot is that Dice-K was upstaged by Felix Hernandez, who pitched one of the greatest games of his career — a one-hit shutout in which he lost the no-hitter on J.D. Drew’s single leading off the eighth. Ichiro was dormant, going 0-for-5.

Darvish’s opponent figures to be Hector Noesi, making his Mariners debut, if the Mariners stay in rotation and pitch Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas in their two games against Oakland on April 6 and 7 after returning from Japan. Hernandez will almost certainly pitch the first game back against the A’s, but here has been some speculation that manager Eric Wedge might want to switch things up so that the A’s don’t get a second look at Vargas. If he does that, then Vargas could be the opponent for Darvish.

The second game between the Rangers and Mariners on Saturday, April 10, will be notable for the major-league starting debut of Neftali Feliz, converted to the Ranger rotation after saving 72 games the past two seasons as Texas’s closer. Free agent Joe Nathan takes over those duties.

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