ARLINGTON — Clearly, Yu Darvish is ready.But what about the Rangers bullpen?No longer new to Texas, no longer a rookie to the nuances of the American League, Darvish concluded his outstanding spring Thursday night.He pitched four complete innings and threw 52 pitches, 42 of them for strikes. The lone hit he allowed was a soft liner that fell beyond the reach of shortstop Elvis Andrus into center field.Admittedly, the Mexico City Red Devils, the nights exhibition guests and 12-1 losers, are neither the Detroit Tigers nor those other diablos, the Angels of Anaheim.But great pitching never gets lost in translation. In five starts this spring, Darvish pitched 17-plus innings and allowed only nine hits. Opposing hitters batted only .145 against him.That will play in any league, any language.Theres a big difference in my confidence level between this season and last season, Darvish said following his final tuneup of the spring. I feel really relaxed this year.That makes one of him, at least. I cant believe, though, that Rangers, Inc., is completely relaxed about the teams bullpen as the regular season prepares to begin.The Rangers relief corps was all but finalized Friday with the announcement that Tanner Scheppers and rookie surprise Joe Ortiz will be in the bullpen for the opener.Ortiz, who began last season with Double A Frisco, pitched his way onto the major league roster by throwing nine scoreless innings in 10 appearances in Arizona.Left-handed, standing 5-foot-7 and lacking the sleek physique of, say, Alexi Ogando, Ortiz looks like an Eddie Guardado starter kit. And thats meant as a high compliment.Manager Ron Washington said it was an emotional moment for Ortiz, who is 22 and was in a major league camp this spring for the first time, when he told him he had made the big club.The Rangers will have three lefties in the bullpen when they open the season Sunday night in Houston. Washington was asked if he ever had that many left-handers in relief.Never, but weve got three quality ones, he said. And they will all get a chance to go out there and continue to progress.The decision to keep Ortiz was understandable, considering his spring numbers. Some of the other bullpen keepers? Not so much.The Rangers are hoping that 35-year-old Jason Frasor, signed as a free agent in the off-season, regains the touch he had two seasons ago in Toronto. In seven appearances in Arizona this spring, Frasor had a 7.11 ERA.Spring training stats can mean nothing or everything. Veterans such as Frasor know when the big lights come on.For Scheppers, however, there is no track record of shutting down major league bats. Called up in June last season, the right-hander pitched in 39 games and opposing hitters batted .343 against him. In 23 relief appearances of one full inning or more, Scheppers pitched a clean inning no base runners allowed only four times.He has to start showing some consistency.Lefty Michael Kirkman did, and he was roundly considered to have had, next to Darvish, the pitching staffs most impressive spring.He had a consistent delivery this spring, and that caused his pitches to be over the plate more consistently, Washington said, explaining Kirkmans simple transformation.Washingtons starting rotation appears ready to go. But of the seven arms in the bullpen that likely will start the season Sunday, only closer Joe Nathans role is certain.As far as establishing roles, Washington said, I think theyll do that as the year progresses, because we have young guys down there who have never been in permanent roles.Weve got to find out if they can handle it.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton