Mariners-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Texas Rangers have already invested a lot of money in Yu Darvish.

Now, they'll finally get an idea if it's well spent.

Darvish takes the mound in his highly anticipated major league debut Monday night when the Rangers try to continue their dominance of the Seattle Mariners in the opener of this four-game set.

Texas (2-1) acquired Darvish from Japan's Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for a posting fee of $51.7 million in January and inked him to a six-year, $60 million contract. The move is expected to bolster a rotation that lost C.J. Wilson to the Los Angeles Angels via free agency after the Rangers lost a second consecutive World Series last fall.

The 6-foot-5 right-hander went 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA and 1,259 strikeouts over the past seven seasons in Japan's Pacific League, winning league MVP honors twice. He also led Hokkaido to the 2006 Japan Series title and Climax Series championships in '07 and '09.

While those numbers combined with the exorbitant fee and salary have led to lofty expectations, Darvish certainly didn't temper any of it in his introductory press conference.

"I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say, 'Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world,'" Darvish told the Rangers' official website.

Manager Ron Washington, however, is wary of nerves playing a factor in Darvish's debut.

"Darvish is only human," Washington said. "His first game at the major league level, he'll probably have butterflies and need to settle down. But he did a good job of settling down in spring training. He's pitched in big games before, I don't care if it was in Japan. I expect him to do the same thing as others, keep us in the ballgame."

Darvish was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 15 innings during spring training. He was most impressive in his finale, fanning 11 over six innings to beat Colorado on March 30.

Darvish is trying to become the fourth consecutive Japanese starter to win his major league debut since Tomo Ohka lost his for Boston on July 19, 1999.

"He's ready to pitch in the big leagues," catcher Mike Napoli said. "He's got good stuff, he's a competitor, he likes being out there. He's not scared, he goes after hitters and gets outs."

One hitter he's likely to face in the first inning is countryman Ichiro Suzuki, who is 6 for 17 with three RBIs through four games. The 38-year-old right fielder hit .189 with one RBI in nine games at Rangers Ballpark last season.

"It's going to be crazy, with a big following just like there is for Ichiro," Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley told the team's official website. "Especially him playing Ichiro, will probably make it that much (more) hyped. So it'll be fun to see. Us having our first game in Texas there with him and Ichiro, I think it'll be a cool story."

The Rangers won 15 of 19 against the Mariners (3-1) in 2011, including an 8-1 home record behind a .300 average and 14 homers.

Three of Texas' six hits left the park in Sunday's 5-0 win over Chicago as the Rangers took two of three in the season-opening series. Josh Hamilton, David Murphy and Adrian Beltre all homered for the first time this season in the series finale.

Hamilton is 5 for 11 with two RBIs so far, and he has a .331 average with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 32 games against Seattle in Texas.

The Mariners won their second straight with Saturday's 8-7 victory at Oakland.

Hector Noesi will try to keep that going in his team debut after going 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games - two starts - as a rookie with the New York Yankees last season.

The right-hander was acquired by Seattle with catcher Jesus Montero in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Bronx.

Seattle hasn't opened with four wins in five games since 2001, the season it went a franchise-best 116-46.

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