Yu Darvish Will Start World Baseball Classic Opener For Japan

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

Yahoo Sports Japan reported Yu Darvish was announced as the starting pitcher for Japan’s first game of the World Baseball Classic against China in Pool B at the Tokyo Dome on March 9 at 5 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 2.  

Japan won the first two World Baseball Classics in 2006 and 2009, and will look to win their third world title next month with manager Hideki Kuriyama at the helm. Darvish resigned with the San Diego Padres this offseason, getting a six year, $108 million contract with the San Diego Padres, including a $6 million signing bonus and an annual average salary of $18 million until 2028. Last year, Darvish went 16-8, starting in 30 games pitching 194.2 innings and striking out 197 batters. 

Darvish will suit up for Japan in the World Baseball Classic for the second time since 2009.  Darvish started Japan’s first game at the 2009 World Baseball Classic against China, allowing one walk, no hits, and striking out three, and started against Korea at Petco Park in what was his first appearance pitching on United States soil.  Darvish pitched five innings, allowing two earned runs, four hits, and walking one batter, losing 4-1. 

Darvish made his first relief appearance of the tournament during the semifinals, which saw Japan beat the United States to earn a date to the championship game. Darvish entered the game in the ninth inning as Japan won 9-4, with Darvish striking out two. He also pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic championship game against Korea at Dodger Stadium, working out of the bullpen, giving up the tying run in the ninth on a two-out single from Bum-ho Lee to force extra innings.  

Japan broke the tie in the top of the 10th inning when Ichiro Suzuki delivered a two-run single to capture the lead at 5-3. Darvish threw a second inning out of the bullpen in the championship game and recorded his fifth strikeout, getting infielder Jeong Keun-woo for the final out of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  

Japan will look to continue their recent run of success in international play, having won the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, beating the United States at Yokohama Stadium to capture the gold medal for the first time in their nation’s history. Japan also won the 2019 Premier 12 against Korea at the Tokyo Dome, with a lot of the top Nippon Professional Baseball league players that will fill up the 2023 World Baseball Classic roster. 

Japan will face the Czech Republic, Australia, China, and Korea in Pool B of the World Baseball Classic from March 8-13. Japan will begin their training camp in Miyazaki on February 17 before playing exhibition games against Nippon Professional Baseball organizations during that professional league’s spring training. Some Japan players will train with their respective NPB organizations before suiting up for the World Baseball Classic, joining the team in Osaka on March 5 before going to Tokyo. The four other Major League players that will be joining Japan in the beginning of March in Osaka are Lars Nootbar, Shoei Ohtani, Seiyea Suzuki and Masataka Yoshida.  

Japan will have two scheduled exhibition games in Osaka on March 6 against the Hanshin Tigers at the Kyocera Dome at 6 p.m. JST, and on March 7 against the Orix Buffaloes at the Kyocera Dome at 7 p.m. JST, before heading to the Tokyo Dome.  

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