As expected, Yu Darvish will start on Opening Day for the Texas Rangers.
Manager Ron Washington met with Darvish on Tuesday morning to inform his staff ace of the decision. Washington alluded to it at Fan Fest last month, and made it official Tuesday.
Washington called it one of the easiest decisions of the spring. Darvish went 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA over 32 starts last season, striking out a major league-leading 277 batters. He was the runner up in the American League Cy Young vote.
“Yu is the kind of guy that doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but he was excited in what he said,” Washington said. “He’s going to work his tail off to make certain he does a good job and represent well.”
Darvish is the fifth Opening Day starter in the last five years for the Rangers. Matt Harrison started last year’s game after going 18-11 in 2012.
This announcement, coupled with Washington’s lineup declaration earlier this spring, means the Rangers should have players from seven countries, as well as Puerto Rico, in the lineup. Darvish (Japan), first baseman Prince Fielder and designated hitter Mitch Moreland (United States), left fielder Shin-Soo Choo (Korea), center fielder Leonys Martin (Cuba), right fielder Alex Rios and catcher Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), third baseman Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic), shortstop Elvis Andrus (Venezuela) and second baseman Jurickson Profar (Curacao).
Baseball is a universal language.
“I never really thought of that,” Washington said. “I’m just putting baseball players out there on the field.”
Nick Tepesch felt a little soreness in his back Monday, and the Rangers weren’t going to take any chances by scratching him from the intrasquad game. Tepesch is listed as day-to-day and didn’t seem overly concerned about this latest setback.
“I’d rather take a couple days now rather than missing a month by trying to push it,” he said. “It’s nothing serious, just a matter of trying to protect us and [not] miss more time than I need to.”
Tepesch won the fifth spot in the rotation coming out of spring last year, and went 4-6 with a 4.84 ERA over 19 games, including 17 starts. He was on the disabled list for almost two months with right elbow inflammation.
Room to improve
It’s February and early in camp, but pitching coach Mike Maddux knows that Neftali Feliz can be better.
Feliz gave up a home run to minor leaguer Brett Nicholas and an RBI double to Luis Sardinas during Tuesday’s intrasquad game.
“He threw a couple decent changeups,” Maddux said. “But the changeup plays off the fastball and we’ve got to get the fastball up to speed before he can get away with a mistake on his changeup.”
Briefly• Left-hander Matt Harrison returned to camp Tuesday, a day after receiving good news on his lower back stiffness. “I was feeling good about it before I got there and this reaffirmed that nothing is going on,” he said. “I’m going to ease back in.”
• Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder did not play in the intrasquad games, but Washington said they should be ready for Thursday’s Cactus League opener.
• The Rangers announced their first “Evening with a Legend” event will feature Michael Young on April 11 at the Ballpark. It’s $500 per couple with net proceeds benefiting the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. More information can be found at the team’s website.