Darvish's Spring Training goal: 'Be ready by Korea'

February 23rd, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's not quite spring 2023 for .

A year ago, the veteran right-hander pitched for Team Japan at the World Baseball Classic. He trained in Japan and didn't join the Padres until after the tournament was over. In the meantime, as Japan made its run to the tournament title, Darvish pitched twice in relief, throwing his spring progression out of whack. When he arrived, he was bumped to the back of the rotation as a result.

This spring is not quite so complex. But Darvish's 2024 buildup will feature its share of challenges -- and, eventually, another trans-Pacific flight.

San Diego opens its season next month in Korea with a two-game series against the rival Dodgers. Those two clubs met Friday in Cactus League play at Camelback Ranch. Darvish, meanwhile, stayed behind to pitch a simulated inning at the Peoria Sports Complex, throwing 32 pitches.

"Right now, the goal is to be ready by Korea," Darvish said through interpreter Shingo Horie. "I'm aiming so that I'm ready by the time we get there."

Darvish anticipates that his next outing will come in the form of two innings in a Cactus League game. That would put him a day behind right-hander Joe Musgrove, who pitched against Los Angeles in Thursday's Cactus League opener.

Presumably, it'd be Musgrove and Darvish starting those two games in Korea, though those plans aren't final and are obviously contingent on health. Both had their 2023 seasons end early due to injury -- Darvish with a stress reaction in his right elbow.

This spring, Darvish is healthy. After he'd rested the injury through October and into November, Darvish was cleared for full offseason activity. His offseason throwing progression was the same as ever.

Initially, the Padres had planned to let Darvish face the Dodgers in the Cactus League on Friday, though they recently changed those plans. Manager Mike Shildt noted that there wasn’t much to read into that change.

"I've got complete confidence that Yu's going to be ready," Shildt said. "Him throwing a live BP today is way more about two things. One, allowing him to get built up in a controlled environment. And two, Yu Darvish knows what he needs to do to compete at the highest level, which he's done for a long time."

Darvish said his 32 pitches were more than he’d originally planned for. He wasn’t pleased with the way he started his session, allowing an extra-base hit and a walk. Darvish quickly rebounded with a couple punchouts.

“Toward the beginning, I wasn't finishing my pitches the way I wanted to,” Darvish said. “But gradually I got better, and I was able to finish my pitches, so I take that as a positive.”

After his bullpen session, Darvish retreated to the bleachers next to the field, where two of his seven children were on hand. His family had just arrived. Together, Darvish and his two sons took in Ryan Carpenter’s ensuing live BP from the front bleacher. Then, Darvish retreated to the clubhouse.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that the kids get to see what I do,” Darvish said. “They’re at the age that they understand what’s going on. So for them to be here, be able to watch me go about it on the mound, there’s some sense of gratification for that.”

Will they be on hand to watch Darvish in Korea? He shook his head and laughed.

“Too many kids,” he said.