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Star-Telegram.com

Darvish still learning with Texas Rangers as he gains experience

Posted Sunday, Jun. 03, 2012

By Jeff Wilson

jwilson@star-telegram.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Yorvit Torrealba has had the best possible vantage point for four of Yu Darvish's first 10 big-league starts and was behind the plate Saturday night for No. 11.

He had seen Darvish through both of his losses, including the Seattle walkfest May 21 when the right-hander clearly was the worst he has been in his rookie season.

But where others might have seen only the struggles at Safeco Field, Torrealba saw a pitcher who was continuing to make progress. That's what Darvish has done all season.

It's not just Torrealba saying that, though he has had a better look than most.

"I think he's getting better, actually," Torrealba said prior to Saturday's game. "I know he had a tough outing against Seattle. But overall he's filthy. This is a guy with seven pitches, and he can throw all of them for a strike."

Darvish and C.J. Wilson were locked in a pitchers' duel through five innings at Angel Stadium as Darvish allowed only two hits. But a two-base error on Mike Napoli to start the sixth and a one-out error by Adrian Beltre broke a scoreless tie, and the unearned run had the Angels up 1-0.

The Rangers, though, countered with a run in the seventh after Wilson had left the game, but Darvish couldn't finish the seventh as the Angels scored two disputed runs to regain the lead at 3-1. A Rangers rally fell short in a 3-2 defeat charged to Darvish.

Darvish walked one in the seventh, an area where he needs to improve. He entered the start at Angel Stadium with 35, fourth-most in the American League, and had three in 6 1/3 innings Saturday.

Torrealba, who was ejected for arguing a call at the plate in the seventh, said that Darvish hasn't been trying to be too fine with his pitches, and some of them dive out of the strike zone because of all the movement his pitches have.

But he has shown command of them at times this season and needs to continue to work on filling the strike zone.

"That's why he's been getting in a little bit of trouble lately," Torrealba said. "He's trying to keep the ball down, and he yanks the pitches. He just needs to pound the strike zone."

Manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux are always imploring Rangers pitchers to let opposing hitters put the ball in play and let the defense do its job.

The result is fewer pitches and a quicker tempo, and Darvish seized on that early on Saturday. He had thrown only 42 pitches through three scoreless innings, though Craig Gentry robbed Erick Aybar of a homer in the third inning with a leaping catch at the center-field wall.

But the Angels opened the fourth with a single for their first hit and a walk. Darvish got the next two hitters before walking Torii Hunter to load the bases but got out of the jam as jumped ahead of Howie Kendrick and got an inning-ending grounder.

"If he starts putting their guys on the bag, someone's going to get him," Washington cautioned before the game.

Darvish is a smart guy who knows how to make adjustments, something else his teammates have seen from him through the first two months.

Each outing allows him a chance to learn more about AL hitters and how teams like to attack. But he's also learning what it takes to be prepared for each start.

"He's learning every day, and not just between the lines but with us as well," said left-hander Derek Holland, who noted that Darvish's command of English has improved. "It's pretty cool to see that and be a part of that and watch as you see him growing. He definitely picks up something new each day."

And with each day, say his teammates, Darvish continues to get better.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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