The spotlight will be on Nippon-Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish at the World Baseball Classic in March.
Former MLB infielder and MLB.com baseball analyst Harold Reynolds was asked what storyline he was keeping an eye on heading into the second edition of the WBC.
"Obviously A-Rod is going to take the headlines but it's Yu Darvish for me," Reynolds told a hot stove panel on the WBC website, which also featured former MLB shortstops Barry Larkin and Alex Gonzalez.
"We saw Dice-K come on and, wow, this guy's in the World Baseball Classic and now he's pitching for the Red Sox," continued Reynolds. "I've got my eye on Yu Darvish. They're talking about the best in the world. I want to see what he's got."
In the first WBC in 2006, Daisuke Matsuzaka led Japan to victory by going 3-0 and was named tournament MVP. After drawing a $51.1 million (4.5 billion yen) sealed bid from Boston, he later signed a six-year, $52 million contract with the club.
The 196-centimeter Darvish, 22, went 15-5 with a 1.82 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 2007 for the Nippon-Ham Fighters and followed that up by going 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA and 208 Ks this past season. At the Beijing Olympics he was a major disappointment, however, posting an 0-1 record with a 5.14 ERA. In seven innings pitched over three games, Darvish gave up eight hits and four runs. He also walked five, hit one batter and threw two wild pitches in Beijing.