Japan tabs Darvish to start vs. China

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Japan manager Tatsunori Hara named right-hander Yu Darvish the starter in his team's opening game against China in the World Baseball Classic.

Japan, looking to defend its 2006 title, begins play on Thursday against China at Tokyo Dome.

"Yu Darvish is going to start," Hara told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "His condition has been getting better and better as we get closer to the tournament, and I'm excited to watch him pitch the first game for Japan."

Darvish, 22, went 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters and pitched for Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Darvish allowed four runs on seven hits over four innings in his lone start in the Olympics against Cuba.

Japan is playing in Pool A along with South Korea, China and Taiwan.

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.