Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 3/20/12
As a general rule, you don't want to make sweeping judgments based on spring training games. But of course, that's next to impossible when one of those games involves Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish. He made his third start of the Cactus League on Monday, and he showed marked improvement from his last outing. Darvish went four innings in a 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He retired reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun twice and the velocity on his fastball was consistently in the 93-94 range. He also plunked a hitter with his slow curveball, walked three and had four strikeouts. Darvish only gave up one hit while throwing 39 strikes and 31 balls. It also sounds like the 25-year-old pitcher is learning how to be politically correct when he's asked about certain hitters. He caused a minor controversy following his first start by suggesting the Padres' Will Venable didn't actually "square up" a double that nearly knocked down the center field wall in Peoria. He played it a little more close to the vest after retiring Braun on a pop-up to second base and fly out to left field. "He's a tremendous hitter, has a tremendous swing," Darvish said through a translator. "I'm still new here and I don't think it's proper for me to evaluate him yet, but he's a very good hitter." It's also too early to make a true evaluation of what Darvish has accomplished in spring training, although that's not stopping folks. He's probably tried to be too exacting at times with the location of his pitches. He has a full arsenal, but it's important for him to work off his fastball. Pitching coach Mike Maddux wants his guys to pitch to contact and not worry about trying to always nibble at the corners. Darvish worked out of the windup for the first time in three starts Monday and he looked very comfortable in a three-up, three-down first inning. The walks (and a wild pitch) are troubling because it's driving up his pitch count. But for now, the Rangers are just hoping to get Darvish acclimated to facing major-league hitters. The good news is that Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels don't look at the enormous financial investment in Darvish and believe he has to be at the top of the rotation right away. Derek Holland has a brand new contract and he's determined to be the Rangers' No. 1 option as early as this season. And you have the luxury of knowing Colby Lewis is the most clutch postseason pitcher in the history of the organization. Rangers manager Ron Washington was the one guy who didn't temper his expectations for Darvish when the two of us spoke recently in Surprise. He believes that Darvish will replace C.J. Wilson's 16 wins immediately. And he'd seen one spring training start at that point. Darvish was so dominant in Japan that he rarely had the opportunity to bounce back from a poor start. It's going to happen to him at some point with the Rangers, and it could happen early in the season. When it happens, don't expect the Rangers to overreact. Look how patient they were with Holland when he couldn't get out of the second inning of games. Washington and Maddux trusted that Holland had the type of resolve to overcome those outings. And he rewarded that trust with a masterful second half of the season and performance in the World Series. Maddux was typically understated in his evaluation of Darvish's outing Monday. "He progressed the way he wanted to today," Maddux told reporters. "We worked two times and skipped a live BP to get more mound time. I was happy with his outing. He commanded the fastball and threw some good breaking balls." The Rangers won't obsess about results during spring training. They'll leave that up to the rest of us.
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