Shohei Ohtani & Freddie Freeman Among Dodgers With Appreciation For Yu Darvish

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The Los Angeles Dodgers were tasked with facing a former teammate for some on Opening Day as Yu Darvish took the mound for the San Diego Padres at Gocheok Sky Dome.

The 37-year-old is plenty familiar with the Dodgers, having briefly pitched for the organization during the second half of the 2017 season and spending the last three years in the National League West as a member of the Padres.

And in the case of Shohei Ohtani, Darvish is a fellow countryman, friend and World Baseball Classic teammate.

“Darvish is somebody I always looked up to when I was a young kid and someone I really respected as a pitcher,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

“I tried to form my game around him. I had a chance to play with him in the WBC and work out with him in past offseasons. He’s a great friend of mine. I haven’t faced him up to this point, so I’m really excited to face him finally.”

Ohtani went 2-for-5 with an RBI in his Dodgers debut, which included a two-out single against Darvish in the third inning.

Freddie Freeman also looked forward to stepping in the batter’s box against Darvish because of the challenge it presents. “Mook (Mookie Betts) and I have faced Yu quite a bit in our careers. Just knows how to pitch, been doing it a long time,” Freeman said.

“You know when you wake up in the morning you’re going to have a real test that night. So every time we get to face Yu and Joe, and anybody on the Padres’ staff, it’s going to be a good test for us.”

Freeman struck out and drew a walk in his only at-bats against Darvish on Wednesday.

Tyler Glasnow, who opposed Darvish on the mound, offered high praise for the five-time All-Star. “We have the same agent, so it’s been a lot of back and forth through Joel (Wolfe) mostly,” Glasnow said.

“I’ve texted him and asked him questions. He’s very much like a pitching guru and stuff like that, especially with grips. So just kind of picking his brain with that stuff for a while. I don’t know how long ago, but quite a while ago I’d say. A long time.”

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who makes his MLB debut for the Dodgers on Thursday, shares a special connection to Darvish as a Japanese native.

“What makes Darvish special for me is of course as a player he has put up great numbers in the big leagues and NPB, but as a human being, he’s got a great personality. That’s why I respect him and look up to him,” Yamamoto said through interpreter Yoshihiro Sonoda.

Dave Roberts praises Yu Darvish

Darvish has historically fared well against the Dodgers in his career, which wasn’t a factor that was lost on the team heading into Opening Day.

“Darvish certainly has withstood the test of time. He’s a great pitcher,” manager Dave Roberts said.

“The thing that makes Yu so effective is his ability to make everything look the same. Half of his pitches are secondary pitches, half of them are fastballs. He throws a lot of balls that appear to be strikes, and they’re balls. So to be able to control the strike zone against Yu certainly is easier said than done.

“I think he’s definitely had his way with us, uses both sides of the plate. But I think for him, like most really good pitchers, you’ve got to try to get something up in the zone, wait for mistakes, and when you do get a mistake, you’ve got to capitalize.”

Darvish wound up with a no-decision in his 2024 debut against the Dodgers as he allowed one unearned run on two hits and collected three strikeouts but managed to complete just 3.2 innings.

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