Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish impresses in his first major league action

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Months of anticipation of Yu Darvish’s debut led up to less than a half hour of baseball action, but it was exciting baseball action all the same. The tale of the tape: two innings, 36 pitches, 26 strikes, no runs, a couple of hits, three strikeouts, a spiffy defensive play and the beginning of what’s bound to be a fabulous career.

My first impression of Darvish: he’s tall. We knew he was tall, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked all the taller. He also throws hard. We knew he threw hard, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked like he threw all the harder. And, at least according to these uneducated eyes, he had offspeed and breaking stuff that should be illegal.

Not that it was perfect: he gave up two doubles. One, by Orlando Hudson, was not very hard hit. The other, by Will Venable, was tattooed and probably would have been a homer if not for the very tall wall in center field here at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Venable was erased a couple batters later, however, when James Darnell chopped one in front of the plate, Darvish reached up tall — did I mention he was tall? — stabbed it, fired to his catcher and caught Venable in between third and home.  Greg Maddux, who has been working with Darvish in Rangers camp as a special assistant and made that play hundreds of times in his career, is likely to be proud.

Apart from that: three strikeouts: Cameron Maybin to lead off, Carlos Quentin to end the first and then John Baker to end the second.  Quention and Baker looked confused at the offspeed stuff. Baker looked practically lost. He may have well as had a piano leg with him.

And a final note that tells us that Darvish is a different guy altogether. Strike two to Baker was a hard foul back that just cleared the screen behind the plate and made the concourse just to the third base side. A man dove for the ball, dropping what was in his hands, and laid out full on the concrete to pick up the souvenir.  The man who dove: a credentialed Japanese photographer. The thing he dropped: a very expensive-looking camera.

You don’t do that for just anyone. But you do it for Yu.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.