SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish threw 21 pitches in the bottom of the third inning in Friday's intrasquad game. He faced four batters -- Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre -- in windy conditions in Surprise. Here are some thoughts:
* Darvish fell behind three of the four batters he faced (the first three, in fact) before attacking the zone with Beltre and retiring him quickly on three pitches with a ground ball to second. The hitters, pitching coach, manager and Rangers officials and scouts were happy with the outing but noted that Darvish didn't have his best command.
“I don’t think we saw the best of him,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He faced four guys and we were behind in the count to three of them. That’s something we’ve got to work on. But he came back and faced one of the best hitters in the world in Adrian Beltre and went on the attack with him and got a quick out. The velocity was good. He didn’t throw strikes with all his pitches, but overall stuff is there. I think he’ll be fine.”
* Speaking of velocity, Darvish's hardest fastball hit 96 mph. He threw a 66 mph curve ball to Elvis Andrus, something catcher Dusty Brown described as "a video-game pitch." He mixed in two-seamers with good movement too.
* He threw a nice 3-2 slider to Kinsler, shaking off his catcher, who wanted him to throw a two-seamer. Darvish had fallen behind 3-0 in the at-bat but battled back. Kinsler was in front of the pitch and hit a fly ball to shallow left.
“That’s pretty good for the first day to have confidence in your off-speed stuff to throw it on a full count,” Kinsler said.
* Darvish overall said he wasn't nervous, but was not "satisfied" with his mechanics. Asked if his fastball was ready for the regular season, Darvish shook his head.
“Not close at all,” he said through interpreter Joe Furukawa. “At this time every year my fastball quality and the feel is not good. I still have a month to go, but my fastball life and the quality is not even close to game form yet.”
* All of the hitters were impressed. Hamilton, who drew a walk, liked Darvish's movement and confidence. Andrus loved the life on his fastball. And Kinsler added that Darvish showed athleticism during the bunt drill at the end of his session.
"We finish every inning and he was very athletic in finding the ball and getting it to third base," Kinsler said. "It was very good feet work. If you can get that lead out as a starting pitcher, it definitely helps you."
* Some of the scouts I talked to said Darvish's movement is impressive, especially considering that in the dry Arizona air sometimes pitches don't move as much as they would in other places. It was clear Darvish didn't want to get behind in the count on Beltre and went into attack mode. It worked as he got ahead and then got Beltre to ground out.
* He can hit the two-seamer on both parts of the plate and isn't afraid to throw it to left-handed and right-handed hitters. Brown said that what's difficult for hitters on the slow curve is that it comes out of Darvish's hands just like the other pitches.
"He throws it with the same arm speed and it takes a while to get to the plate," Brown said.
The catcher said it was fun to be behind the plate for Darvish.