MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Yu impressive even through adversity

Justice: Yu impressive through adversity

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish had almost zero command of his fastball and got frustrated a time or two. Afterward, he'd still done enough to leave a good impression on his new team.

"He'll be ready come April," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's got good stuff."

Darvish showed off an array of nice secondary pitches and made a couple of terrific ones in key situations, getting one strikeout on a wicked split-finger and a double-play grounder on a slider.

His problem was that on a day when he couldn't get his 91-mph fastball in the strike zone, he kept throwing it. Some pitchers do this because they're stubborn. Some do it because they're confident they'll eventually find it. Some, though, do it because they have nothing else.

That's not the case with Darvish, and when it ended, his catcher, manager and bullpen coach talked up his offspeed stuff and how it was plenty good enough to carry him through a game.

All in all, though, the Rangers had to be pretty happy. They saw a 6-foot-5 25-year-old with nice velocity, plenty of poise and loads of confidence and stuff.

"His other pitches were as sharp as they can be," Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins said. "His curveball was outstanding. He changes speeds with it. It's a quality curveball. He has a good idea how to command that pitch. His slider was sharp today."

Pitchers reveal so much of themselves on days when they don't have their best stuff, when they have to figure out a way to get by on what they have that game. Darvish got just 29 of his 61 pitches in the strike zone and allowed seven baserunners in three innings.

He retired six of the 13 hitters he faced and was bailed out of trouble in the first inning when catcher Yorvit Torrealba threw out two basestealers. He was about to be pulled in the third inning when he induced a double-play grounder from Shin-Soo Choo.

Overall, though, he finished three innings in his second spring start and allowed two runs. When it was over, the Rangers still believed in the approximately $112 million investment.

"When you're a quality pitcher, you find ways to do things, and he found a way to get his innings in with minimal damage," Washington said. "It's his second time, fellas. It's not like he's in game-ready form."

For his part, Darvish said it was one of those days. He said he didn't feel good from the moment he warmed up in the bullpen and joked that he might have given up 10 runs if someone other than Torrealba had been behind the plate.

"I think it was a positive step toward me getting ready for the season," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa. "Today, my command was way off. Several pitch situations where it could have been just an awful outing, I was able to battle and get out of there with two runs. I look at it as a positive outing."

Because he comes to Major League Baseball with so much hype and because the Rangers made such a huge investment in him, he makes news every time he takes the mound.

He told reporters that he had no particular goal these first two starts except to get his work in and prepare himself for his first regular-season start. Indeed, afterwards he seemed completely unfazed by it all.

To be thrown into a different league with different teammates and a different culture, he seems at ease with all the things being thrown at him. If it was any other starting pitcher struggling with his fastball, it wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

"I was off with my command today," he said. "I kind of struggled with my four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Not as much with my slider and curveball."

Down the hallway, the Indians offered a positive scouting report, saying Darvish showed off a nice arm and never seemed rattled by allowing seven baserunners.

"He's got good stuff," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "Good life on the fastball. He definitely looks comfortable out there on the mound. He looks like he's been there and is not bothered by the new situations or the new batters he's facing. The difference in speed between his offspeed and his fastball is a big thing. You're just off balance. You can't stay on a 75-mph curveball with a 96-mph fastball."

He was impressive in his first start because he had very good command of his fastball. He brought all his other tools to work in his second, and in a completely different way, he was still impressive.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.