Yu Darvish reviews still contain raves from Texas Rangers

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The lesson of the day Sunday for Yu Darvish was that minor league hitters go after the first pitch they see, especially in intrasquad games and especially if it's a fastball.

He learned that in the fourth inning, when a lineup composed of mostly Texas Rangers upper-level prospects collected five hits and scored four times against the right-hander.

Even with the four-run inning, Darvish left his fourth spring start encouraged by his performance. He struck out 11 hitters, walked two and allowed six hits while reaching his 85-pitch limit.

Next up is a six-inning, 100-pitch start Friday against Colorado in which he will continue to iron out any issues before Opening Day. But catcher Yorvit Torrealba declared that Darvish is good to go.

"The first few outings, I don't think the velocity was there and he was having problems throwing strikes," Torrealba said. "Today was really sharp. We used all his pitches. I think he's ready, honestly."

Darvish didn't go that far, saying he has some polishing to do, but his fastball topped out at 96 mph on the Surprise Stadium radar gun and his breaking pitches had sharp movement.

He threw all of his pitches and had good success with a cutter to left-handed hitters. He wants to continue to tinker with his delivery and to get a better feel for his two-seam fastball, at the behest of his coaches.

"All the pitching coaches really like my sinker, and they've been saying it's a pitch they recommend," Darvish said. "Right now, it's not so much the movement, but I'm working on throwing strikes with that. And that's progressing."

Pitching coach Mike Maddux said that Darvish was trying to establish a pitch-sequence with his sinker, but the hitters' aggression didn't allow it. He chalked up the fourth-inning rally to just being ambushed as hitters looked for the fastball early.

Maddux, like Torrealba, has seen steady improvement from Darvish throughout the spring.

"He's improved each time out," Maddux said. "Today, velocity was there, and he spun it really well. The stuff was good, man, it was really good. And he feels good. He said he could have pitched nine innings."

Darvish escaped trouble in the second and third innings, thanks to four of his strikeouts. He struck out two hitters in each of the first, second, third and fifth innings, and struck out the side in the fourth.

But eight hitters batted in the fourth, and five of the first six reached. Yangervis Solarte started the rally with a single and went to third on a double by Hirotoshi Onaka.

Chris Robinson knocked in a run with a single, and Engel Beltre followed with an opposite-field double to plate two more runs. Mike Olt capped the rally with a triple off the center-field wall on the next pitch.

Olt said that he was sitting on a fastball after Darvish beat him with it in his first two at-bats, both strikeouts. But the third baseman, the Rangers' top power-hitting prospect, said that Darvish dominated the game.

"I saw pretty much everything from him today," Olt said. "He's definitely got the stuff. He's got the whole arsenal. He commanded the ball really well and made his pitches when he needed to. He's going to be successful."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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