Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish will not be helping Japan defend its title in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the All-Star hurler announced on Tuesday.
Darvish, who earned the victory in the championship game over South Korea in the 2009 WBC, cited a need for rest after recently completing his debut major league season.
The right-hander threw 191 innings over 29 regular-season starts during the 2012 campaign, his first in the majors after signing a six-year deal with the Rangers to leave Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League. Darvish also started Texas' loss to Baltimore in the American League Wild Card Game.
"This was a very difficult decision for me as it is always a tremendous honor to represent my native country of Japan," said Darvish in a statement. "I greatly enjoyed being a part of the 2009 championship ballclub and I will be supporting this year's team as they look to defend their title. There are many very talented players in Japan and I am confident this team will uphold Japan's great tradition in this event."
Darvish compiled a 16-9 record and a 3.90 earned run average while finishing fifth in the AL in strikeouts this past season, and is considered one of the top contenders for the league's Rookie of the Year award.
The 26-year-old went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over two starts and three relief appearances during the most recent edition of the WBC. In addition to beating South Korea in the title match, he closed out Japan's victory over the United States in the semifinal round.
Japan has won each of the two prior installments of the WBC, topping Cuba in the championship game in the inaugural 2006 tournament.