SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish is more at ease in his second spring with the Texas Rangers, and he is still throwing hard.
The Japanese ace, who won 16 games last season as a major league rookie, struck out two while retiring all six White Sox he faced in his first spring start. Chicago then scored 11 runs over the next two innings on the way to a 14-8 victory Tuesday."His velocity was up, his stuff was just better," said new Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who faced his former team while catching Darvish. "He threw the ball really well and it was very encouraging to see. We talked in the bullpen and talked before the game about what he wanted to accomplish, and he accomplished everything that he wanted to and needed to."Pierzynski, who spent his last eight seasons in Chicago before signing a one-year deal with Texas, had previously worked with the 26-year-old Darvish during an intrasquad game last week and in bullpen sessions.After the Rangers committed more than $107 million to acquire Darvish, including a guaranteed $56 million, six-year contract, the pitcher's every move was chronicled and scrutinized last spring. Plenty of people are still watching, but not to the same extent in this camp."Compared to last year, I think my comfort level is really high," Darvish said through a translator. "Getting along and communicating with my teammates, I feel very comfortable with it this year."Manager Ron Washington described this as a "relaxing spring" for Darvish."He's just being a part of things more," Washington said. "He doesn't stand out as much as he did last year, which is a good thing. That means he's blending in with the rest of his teammates. In that respect, it should help."Nestor Molina and Brian Omogrosso, the first two White Sox pitchers, both had two shutout innings. Omogrosso is in the mix for a possible spot in the Chicago bullpen.Chicago scored six runs in the third off 20-year-old Cody Buckel. The right-hander, the top minor league pitcher in the Rangers organization last year, walked five of the seven batters he faced.Evan Meek, in Rangers camp on a minor league contract, allowed five runs and five hits and got only two outs in the fourth.Buckel was also hurt by an error when a liner ricocheted off the glove of third baseman Mike Olt, who later hit a two-run homer.After throwing two balls to start the game, Darvish threw two strikes before getting leadoff hitter Dewayne Wise on a foul popout to Olt. Gordon Beckham then struck out."He looked good, same old stuff. He's got good stuff, throwing hard it looked like," Beckham said. "Threw me a couple of fastballs and a slider that struck me out."Darvish went to three balls on two batters. On a full count, Adam Dunn struck out on a checked swing called strike to start the second before Seth Loman flew out on a 3-0 pitch, the last of 28 pitches Darvish threw -- with his fastballs hitting the mid-90s.In 29 regular-season starts last season, Darvish was an All-Star and went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings. He was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 15 walks the last eight starts, and said he feels better physically and mentally this spring."When I'm running, my body feels really light, and when I'm throwing, I feel a lot better than where I was last year," Darvish said. "Overall I feel very good."
Josh Phegley homered for the White Sox in the eighth inning. ... Chicago had a 12-0 lead before Texas scored five times in the fifth on three hits, including Olt's first spring homer, and an error. ... The two teams play again Wednesday, in Glendale. ... Rangers RHP Colby Lewis, who will miss the start of the season while recovering from elbow surgery, said he felt good after throwing Monday off an elevated mound, but one lower than a normal mound. He still is being cautious, with plans to throw long toss Wednesday and off a regular mound Friday.