SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This was the "stretch out" game for Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish -- that's what pitching coach Mike Maddux called Darvish's fourth outing of the spring. Just like Derek Holland and Matt Harrison on Friday and Saturday, Darvish did his work against Minor Leaguers on Sunday, so he could increase his pitch count without worrying too much about results. Darvish did what he was told. Darvish was scheduled to throw 85 pitches over five innings, and he did exactly that while allowing four runs in an intrasquad game at Surprise Stadium.
"I gave up four runs, but I was not unhappy at all with my outing," Darvish said afterwards. "Overall, I felt very good. I thought my pitches were good, but I kind of backed up the slider a couple of times ... little by little, it's coming." Darvish's outing began at 10 a.m. MT in the main stadium, three hours before the Royals were scheduled to play the Brewers. About 500 fans showed up early to watch as did approximately 30 scouts from other Major League teams. By pitching against Minor Leaguers, Darvish prevented the Angels from getting a firsthand look at him during the Cactus League game later in the day between the two American League West rivals at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Darvish was facing a lineup that included some of the Rangers' top Minor League prospects: Leonys Martin, Engel Beltre, Mike Olt and Tommy Mendonca. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out 11. Darvish threw 85 pitches, including a 95-mph fastball past Olt for one of his strikeouts. Darvish allowed just one hit and two walks through three scoreless innings before getting knocked around for four runs in the fourth. "I thought he looked good," Maddux said. "He's improved each time out. His velocity was there and he spun a few [curves]. I thought his stuff was good. He feels good physically, he said he could go nine innings. That's a good sign." Darvish, pitching for the home team, was actually the losing pitcher in the five-inning affair. Cody Buckel, the Rangers second-round pick from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, pitched four scoreless innings for the visiting team, which ended up with a 4-1 victory. One of Darvish's main goals for the outing was to work on his sinker, and that was the pitch he was getting up in the zone during the fourth inning. "All the pitching coaches really like my sinker," Darvish said. "It's a pitch they recommend might play well over here. I'm working on throwing strikes with that, and it's progressing." The fourth inning began with Darvish giving up three consecutive singles to Yangervis Solarte, Hirotoshi Onaka and Chris Robinson. That brought in one run. Martin struck out, but Beltre doubled in two runs, and Olt hit a triple off the center-field fence to bring in the fourth run. Darvish then struck out Mendonca and Matt Kata to end the inning. He pitched one more inning and retired the side in order in the fifth. "Those guys were up there swinging," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "First-pitch fastballs, that's probably the mistake we made. They were really aggressive. We tried to use the [sinker] and sometimes we didn't have a chance." Darvish's next outing is scheduled for Friday night against the Rockies at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. He will likely have an additional start in one of the three exhibition games in Texas before the season starts. "It's more about polishing my delivery, my repetition at this point," Darvish said. The Rangers still have not announced when Darvish will make his first start of the regular season. It will be either April 8 against the White Sox or April 9 against the Mariners.
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.