Texas Rangers fans got a minor little scare last week when Yu Darvish was scratched from a scheduled Cactus League start with neck stiffness, but those fears — however big they were — were quelled in a hurry on Saturday when Darvish took the hill on Saturday to pitch against a stacked Cincinnati Reds lineup.
Darvish worked five innings, allowing three hits and two runs — on solo home runs — while striking out five and walking just one in his first outing in 11 days. He didn't show any rust and looked ready to go when he makes his first start of the season on April 2 against the offense-starved Houston Astros.
Darvish has had one bad inning this spring, but other than that he's been lights out, working 13 2/3 innings while allowing eight hits and three runs. He's struck out a team-high 15 batters and walked only three — a huge step forward and positive sign for the 26-year-old who walked 89 in 191 1/3 innings last year. Darvish's command improved dramatically over his final eight starts of the 2012 season but before that the walks were what was keeping him from being a legitimate ace. So far, so good in that department as it looks like Darvish has figured out how to attack major-league hitters and not nibble around the strike zone.
"Early last season when he was walking guys, he was worried about walking people," Rangers manager Ron Washington told ESPN Dallas. "He stopped caring about walking people and has been executing his pitches. When you do that, you keep the ball in play, and that's what he does.
"I don't think he has to make any adjustments. He showed he could pitch in the majors last season."