Darvish faces elite Rangers in intrasquad game

Darvish faces elite Rangers in intrasquad game

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish took a step up in competition on a dry and windy Friday afternoon. Darvish, who had been facing Minor League hitters while throwing batting practice, faced the A team in his one inning of work in an intrasquad game on Nolan Ryan Field.

Darvish, with the north wind blowing in hard from left field, faced Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre in his one inning of work. He retired the side without allowing a hit, but walked Hamilton and was erratic with his command.

"I was very grateful, especially facing the top hitters," Darvish said. "I enjoyed that. But I wasn't quite happy with my mechanics."

Darvish fell behind 3-0 to Kinsler, then threw two strikes before getting him to fly out to left field. He also fell behind Andrus before working his way back to a full count and striking him out. Hamilton walked on five pitches. At that point, Darvish had thrown 17 pitches, and pitching coach Mike Maddux didn't want him throwing more than 25.

Maddux was concerned that he might have to "roll over" the inning. That means cut the inning short before Darvish retired the third out. Maddux called over Joe Furukawa, the Rangers head scout in Japan, to see if Darvish might have a problem with that.

"He said that wouldn't be disrespectful to Yu, because he understands pitching," Maddux said.

Maddux didn't have to worry. Darvish got ahead with two strikes to Beltre. The next pitch was fouled off and then Beltre grounded out to second to end the inning. Darvish walked off the mound having thrown 21 pitches, 11 for strikes.

"I don't think we saw the best of him today," Maddux said. "He faced four guys and got behind on three of them. We have to work on that. But he came back against one of the best hitters in the world -- Beltre -- and got him out. He'll be fine. I'm sure he's happy to have that one behind him."

Darvish was throwing in front of several hundred people gathered around the Rangers main practice field behind Surprise Stadium. His one inning of work was broadcast back to Japan.

"I don't think he was nervous, but he was amped up," manager Ron Washington said. "He had a lot of movement and he'll learn how to control it. That stuff he threw up there was good enough to get big league hitters out."

The big league hitters thought so.

"I'm glad he's on our team," Kinsler said.

"His ball moves tremendously," Hamilton said. "You could tell he was nervous the first time facing hitters and everybody watching him. Overall, he looked great. He looked confident on the mound."

After Darvish pitched his inning, he also participated in the obligatory bunt play. During intrasquad games, the Rangers work on one bunt defense play at the end of an inning before switching the sides. In Darvish's case, the Rangers had runners on first and second. Darvish fielded the bunt quickly and threw the ball to third for the out.

"He was very athletic," Kinsler said. "He fielded the ball quickly, got the ball to third, very good positioning, good footwork. He looks very athletic."

Hamilton also noticed one other thing that he liked.

"I like how he wears his hat," Hamilton said. "Kind of like a lefty. When I pitched back in the day, I was like that."

Darvish's next outing will be against a different uniform. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in Peoria against the Padres. The Rangers want all their starters to pitch two innings and throw 35-40 pitches in their first Cactus League outing. Darvish still has some work to do.

"There are just some things I want to continue to polish," Darvish said. "The quality of my fastball is not close."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.