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Darvish brings all-star resume to Fort Wayne for rehab start

TinCaps players and fans gather to watch Darvish throw his warm-up pitches before the game.
Brittany Smith / WBOI News
TinCaps players and fans gather to watch Darvish throw his warm-up pitches before the game.

San Diego Padres ace Yu Darvish suited up for a rehab start with the Fort Wayne TinCaps Wednesday night.

Darvish is working his way back from a groin and hamstring injury that’s kept him sidelined since late-May. He threw 60 pitches in a bullpen session last Friday, and the Padres wanted him to work out some rough edges in a live game ahead of his return.

5,000 fans battled the heat and humidity to watch the five-time MLB all-star in action against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Parkview Field.

He threw 33 strikes on 49 pitches and struck out three… but also surrendered six runs on seven hits, including a home run by Jesus Chirinos that cleared the 400 Club in center field. Only Chirinos and Fernando Tatis Jr. have done that.

Darvish said his focus was on sharpening his pitches ahead of his big league return.

"I think as far as today goes, I was able to throw almost all of my pitches which was good," he said through his interpreter. "I thought the splitter and the slider were working very nicely."

The TinCaps ultimately fell to the Timber Rattlers 8-3.

In 19 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball, Darvish has won 200 games across 450 starts with a spectacular 2.89 ERA. If enough Hall of Fame voters believe his stats in Japan are worthy of consideration, he’s made as strong a case as anybody for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

The TinCaps are a developmental team with a median age of 23.2. Top Padres prospect Ethan Salas was Darvish’s catcher Wednesday night. When Salas was born in 2006, Darvish started 24 games for the Nippon Ham Fighters and won his first national championship.

Darvish, 37, fist bumps his catcher Ethan Salas, 18, at the end of the third inning.
Brittany Smith / WBOI News
Darvish, 37, fist bumps his catcher Ethan Salas, 18, at the end of the third inning.

From the World Baseball Classic to the World Series, Darvish has seen baseball’s biggest stages. The lighter stakes of Fort Wayne did not affect his approach.

"Whichever level that you're playing baseball, you just want to go out there and give the team a chance to win," he said. "My mindset was basically that going into this game."

He added that he has family in Fort Wayne, and was happy they were able to be in the stands for his quick visit.

Darvish has a 3.20 ERA in 11 starts this season for the Padres, and Fort Wayne appears to be his final stop ahead of his return to San Diego.

"Now it's time to get back on the big league mound. Full adrenaline, go back in there and get into real, true competition. I think I'm ready to go today," he said.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.