Darvish faces four of Texas Rangers' top hitters, draws praise

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Those curious to see how Yu Darvish would do against major league regulars instead of early-to-report minor-leaguers would have enjoyed themselves Friday afternoon.

Darvish got what everyone wanted and then some, facing four All-Stars atop the Texas Rangers' batting order during an inning of work in an intrasquad game at the Surprise Recreation Campus.

The right-hander survived to work a scoreless third inning, but labored some with his mechanics and his command against Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre.

But Darvish also enjoyed facing the group, and left a favorable impression on those who watched him in a game setting for the first time in a Rangers uniform.

"He has some type of movement on the ball," manager Ron Washington said. "All he's going to be facing is what he faced today, and that stuff he threw up there is good enough to get any hitter in baseball out."

Darvish threw 21 pitches, 11 for strikes and retired three of the four hitters he faced, with the lone exception a walk on five pitches to Hamilton. Darvish also fell behind the first three hitters, and twice was behind 3-0.

Kinsler popped to left field on a 3-2 slider, and Andrus followed and became Darvish's only strikeout of the inning. Hamilton walked on five pitches, and Darvish dominated Beltre, who hit a roller to second base.

Like their manager, Kinsler, Andrus and Hamilton saw plenty of movement on Darvish's pitches.

"The ball moved tremendously," Hamilton said. "Overall, he looked great. He looks very confident on the mound, and that will continue to grow the more games we get into."

Darvish's fastest pitch was a 96-mph two-seam fastball to Hamilton that missed the strike zone. The slowest was a 66-mph first-pitch curveball to Andrus that was also a ball.

The Rangers have been convinced early on that Darvish's best pitch will be his two-seamer.

It has good sink on it, as Andrus learned when he swung and missed one on a 3-2 pitch for the second out.

There will be no limitation to the variety of pitches Darvish is allowed to throw. He threw seven different pitches Wednesday during live batting practice.

"That sinker that he has is a good enough stand-alone pitch to challenge anyone in the game," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "We're probably going to see a lot of it. It's got a lot of velocity, and it's bottomless. There's a lot of outs down there."

And that's the perspective after only the 10th day of camp. Darvish said that his fastball command is nowhere close to where it will be by Opening Day.

He will continue to work on it on the side before making his Cactus League debut Wednesday against San Diego. His mechanics will also be a focal point.

"I'm very grateful, and it was a lot of fun, especially facing the top [four] hitters of the Rangers' lineup," Darvish said. "I wasn't quite satisfied with the mechanics of my delivery."

They broke down somewhat Friday, leading to his inflated pitch count. At one point, Maddux sought out interpreter Joe Furukawa to see if it would be an insult to Darvish if Maddux stopped the inning before the third out in order to limit his pitches to 25.

It would not have been, but Darvish made it a moot point by zeroing in on Beltre and retiring the third baseman on four pitches.

All involved, from Darvish to the hitters he faced and the coaches who watched, believe there's much more than what Darvish showed on a windy Friday afternoon.

"I don't think we saw the best of him, that's for sure," Maddux said. "I thought the velocity was good. He didn't throw strikes with all his pitches, but the overall stuff is there. I think he'll be fine."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760


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