Texas Rangers

Yu Darvish’s first game against the Rangers perhaps a preview of opening series

Yu Darvish on facing his former team for the first time

Yu Darvish pitched against his former team the Texas Rangers since being traded two years ago.
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Yu Darvish pitched against his former team the Texas Rangers since being traded two years ago.

Yu Darvish is likely to pitch against his former club when the Texas Rangers host the Chicago Cubs for a season-opening three-game series beginning March 28.

It will be the first time Darvish will face his former team since being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2017.

We saw a preview of sorts, however, Thursday afternoon at Sloan Park in Mesa. Darvish faced a split squad Rangers’ lineup featuring some of Darvish’s old teammates, including Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields.

Other familiar faces, including Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo were back in Surprise playing the Royals.

Darvish, who started only eight games for the Cubs in 2018 because of a stress reaction in his right elbow, enjoyed facing his old pals, even if he took umbrage with Choo squaring around to bunt on the second pitch of the game.

“He was trying to bunt,” Darvish said incredulously after throwing four-plus innings. “I told him to swing it.”

In fact, it was Choo who worked a walk to start the fifth that ended Darvish’s day. He held the Rangers to one run on three hits and two walks. He struck out five. Hunter Pence drove in Delino DeShields with a single to right in the first to give Texas a 1-0 lead but the Cubs won 2-1 with a run in the eighth.

“The first two innings I felt a little off. But after that I felt pretty good,” said Darvish, who used his slider more after struggling with his fastball. Darvish, after speaking with a throng of Japanese media, spoke English for the local media. It was something he seldom did while playing in Texas, but he spoke clearly and freely.

He hit a couple of batters Carlos Tocci and Isiah Kiner-Falefa whom he never played with.

“I wasn’t trying to, that was just my mistake,” he said.

Darvish said he doesn’t care if he pitches in that opening series against the Rangers. It will be the last chance for him to pitch one more time in Globe Life Park, the place he entered the majors in 2012. He spent most of five seasons pitching there.

“It’s up to Joe Maddon. I don’t care,” he said. But it’s a good bet Darvish is just being coy. After all, it would give him a chance to face some of the old friends such as Andrus, Mazara, Gallo and Rougned Odor.

“I really wanted to face those guys too,” Darvish said.

But with a new manager, the retirement of Adrian Beltre and a slew of other changes, most notably in the pitching staff, is it even the same team Darvish left two years ago?

“They still have good talent,” Darvish said. “Kiner-Falefa, Guzman and [Logan] Forsythe. He knows baseball well. I feel a little different [about them] than last year.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.