ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Seattle Mariners at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 14, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Yu Darvish is supposed to be the Texas Rangers' No. 1 pitcher and emerge as a legitimate ace -- something not all teams have -- in 2013 after a rookie year that saw him close out on a great note and finish with a sub-4.00 ERA, win 16 games and post 221 strikeouts, which led all major-league rookie pitchers.
He took a first, small step toward that on Tuesday in his Cactus League debut against the Chicago White Sox when he tossed two perfect innings, striking out two batters and showing a vast range of pitches, both in speed and movement.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said the main thing working in Darvish's favor this season is his mental maturity, which is in contrast to this point last year when he was making one of the biggest splashes in baseball as a Japanese pitching sensation/cult hero that had hundreds of Japanese media members watching his every move.
Now, he knows what to expect and is no longer a stranger to the way baseball works in the majors.
"Mentally hs is in a different place," Washington said. "He knows what to expect and he went out there today and had fun and got the job done. What I see more of this year than last year at this time is he is commanding the ball a lot better because I don't think he is trying to impress anyone. I think the only thing on his menu right now is trying to get ready for another major league season."