Rangers' Yu Darvish struggles with control in second start

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There will be times this season when Yu Darvish doesn't have his best control. In those games, he will have to find a way to get through the innings and minimize damage.

Darvish found himself in that situation against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, making his second Cactus League start. Darvish began the game with a pair of four-pitch walks to Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera, and he struggled with his fastball command the rest of the way.

He issued two more four-pitch walks in the third inning but got through his three-inning, 61-pitch outing allowing only two runs. It wasn't the most promising outing by the highly touted Japanese right-hander, but the Texas Rangers feel it will become an early spring building block. So does Darvish.

"It was a positive step," said Darvish, who had three strikeouts. "Today my command was way off, and there were several key situations that it could have become an awful outing. But I was able to battle and get out of there with two runs. With how I felt and my pitches, I look at it as a positive outing."

Darvish said his lack of command might have been related to not feeling great physically. As far as his pitch location, Darvish missed mostly with his two-and four-seam fastballs. He had good location with his off-speed pitches, particularly his slider and curveball.

When he had poor control in Japan, Darvish had an opportunity to work on it when his team was on offense. Pitchers are allowed to throw in front of their dugout, which isn't the case in the major leagues.

"There are a lot of pitchers who are OK without throwing during offense," Darvish said. "That's the way they do it over here, and I'm just going to have to adjust."

Darvish didn't improve his command throughout the game. Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan ripped a double to center to lead off the third inning, and then Darvish issued consecutive four-pitch walks to Lou Marson and Brantley.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Darvish limited the damage to only two runs. Cabrera had an RBI single, but Darvish induced a double-play grounder by Shin-Soo Choo that drove in a run. He ended the inning by getting Travis Hafner to fly out.

Manager Ron Washington planned to pull Darvish after the Choo at-bat, but he opted not to after the double-play ball. And, in Washington's eyes, limiting damage in the kind of jam Darvish found himself in was intriguing.

"If this was a real game, Darvish would've still had the ball. He'd only given up two runs," Washington said. "Over the course of the ballgame, you never know, he might have found his command. That's what good pitchers do, and we consider him a good pitcher.

"He could have found it and put up zeroes for the next two or three innings and then we're in the seventh. You're going to have days where you have to battle to get your outs, and he did just that."

Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and catcher Yorvit Torrealba echoed Washington's statements, saying they were both impressed with how he worked through the third inning.

Torrealba told him that if his fastball command is shaky in the future, he should rely more on his off-speed pitches, especially on the first pitch.

"I told him to mix it up," Torrealba said. "Obviously he's a power pitcher, but if you're throwing Ball 1, Ball 2, Ball 3 with the fastball, start using your secondary pitches. And then maybe come back to your fastball later in the count."

In the end, it should prove to be an early learning experience for Darvish. His two walks to start the game weren't too costly, as Torrealba caught Brantley and Cabrera stealing.

"If Torrealba wasn't catching today," Darvish said, smiling, "I think I'd [have] given up 10 runs."

Drew Davison


Twitter: @drewdavison

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