Could this guy become the best pitcher in the world?

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Could this guy become the best pitcher in the world?

From Comcast SportsNetSAPPORO, Japan (AP) -- Yu Darvish's desire to become the world's best pitcher prompted his decision to leave Japan and sign with the Texas Rangers. "I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say 'Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world,'" Darvish said at a news conference on Tuesday. The 25-year-old right-hander agreed last week to a six-year contract with the Rangers guaranteeing him 56 million. Darvish had a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games in the past seven seasons in Japan, where he was a two-time MVP of the Pacific League and a five-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts three times and ERA twice, and averaged 205 innings pitched over the last five seasons. Over 10,000 fans attended Tuesday's event at Sapporo Dome, where Darvish spent his entire professional career playing for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Early in his career, Darvish said he had no desire to go to Major League Baseball, saying it would be bad for Japanese baseball if all of the top players went overseas. But after seven seasons in Japan, Darvish said he needed a new challenge. "I want to feel the thrill of pitching against the world's best hitters," Darvish said. "It was becoming harder to stay motivated in Japan." There is a lot of excitement in Texas, where fans are hoping Darvish is the missing piece that will help lift the Rangers to their first World Series title.

Despite rough ending, Cotton's return start from minors is solid

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Despite rough ending, Cotton's return start from minors is solid

NEW YORK — Keep peeling away the layers of Jharel Cotton’s start Saturday, and there are several different ways to view it.

The A’s rookie pitched into the sixth inning despite enduring big-time command issues and giving up a run in the first.

He took a no-hitter into the sixth despite not having the feel for his best pitch, the changeup.

He was on the verge of completing six mostly dominant innings before losing a handle on things in the sixth, allowing a two-out rally that culminated with Matt Holliday’s two-run homer. That blast wound up being the difference in Oakland’s 3-2 loss to the Yankees.

It was an eventful 5 2/3-inning outing for Cotton in his return from the minors. He admitted he was very aware he had a no-hitter going, though it also must have registered that with his pitch count at 88 entering the sixth, he wasn’t going to get a chance to complete history.

“I wanted to just go out there and get (through) the sixth inning with no hits,” Cotton said. “I guess I thought about it too much and it just bit me.”

Taking the mound for his first big league start since being optioned to Triple-A on May 11, Cotton was also making his first start at Yankee Stadium. He couldn’t find the strike zone in the first, allowing a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch that led to Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly and an early lead for New York.

But then he settled down and found a groove, retiring 15 out of 16 hitters for a stretch from the first all the way until the sixth. That was all the more impressive given that Cotton did not have the effective changeup that’s usually the centerpiece to his game plan.

Catcher Josh Phegley said he was encouraged by Cotton’s effort in his first start back from Triple-A.

“He was kind of sporadic at the beginning, so i was just calling a lot of cutters because that was our strike pitch,” Phegley said. “You’d like to have the changeup because it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. But he’s got the stuff to do without one of his pitches and still compete and put us in a good position.”

The game turned when Cotton couldn’t slam the door in the sixth after retiring the first two hitters. He walked Gary Sanchez and then caught too much plate with a 1-0 cutter to Holliday, who signed a one-year $13 million contract with New York in the offseason. He drilled a two-run homer to left-center, and Cotton was lifted after Castro singled on his next batter.

“I didn’t want to walk that guy,” Cotton said. “You don’t wanna put guys on base with free passes and I did that, and it came back to haunt me.”

With Cotton’s pitch count crossing 100 in the sixth, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he had no second thoughts about not going to his bullpen earlier. Cotton was charged with three runs on just two hits with three walks and five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

“I was fine with him to get through the inning. That probably would have been it,” Melvin said. “You don’t take a guy out just because he’s got 100 pitches. He was pitching well.”

Cotton will be an important factor for the A’s moving forward given the injuries to starters Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman, with the former going on the 10-day disabled list Saturday and the latter expected to join him in the next day or two.

Suns forward: Durant joining Warriors made him easier to guard

Suns forward: Durant joining Warriors made him easier to guard

Jared Dudley and Kevin Durant were part of the same 2007 Draft Class.

Ever since then, Durant has been the toughest player for Dudley to guard.

The 10-year veteran acknowledged that defending Durant during the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals was his hardest assignment while speaking on The Ryen Russillo Show on ESPN Radio on Thursday.

"My worst time was going against Durant in the playoffs when I played for the Clippers and he was on OKC, and that was my matchup. And him coming down on the transition, and I'm thinking 'I know he can shoot the ball here and I can't touch him.' I just remember him crossing over and he takes one step from half court and dunks it. He's such a tough matchup because in the NBA, you can really get physical with guys, especially stars. So he shoots 90 (percent) from free throw, he can shoot the ball from three, so for me, he's always been my toughest matchup," Dudley said.

Dudley also discussed how it has become easier to defend Durant since he left Oklahoma City for Golden State.

"It actually made it easier, somewhat, him going to the Warriors because they have Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) and he doesn't have that killer instinct, but overall, it's impossible," Dudley concluded.