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Saturday, March 23, 2013
Darvish returning to the mound Saturday

By Ron Matejko

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish will make his first start since missing his last scheduled turn on Monday with a stiff neck he suffered while working out the day prior.

The right-hander threw a bullpen on Thursday, but this will be his first work in a game since Mar. 11. Matt Harrison is the ace, by virtue of being named the Opening Day starter, but with the way Darvish has thrown the ball and his potential upside, he could be considered the 1b option to Harrison's 1a, or an ace in a No. 2-starter role.

Manager Ron Washington and Darvish have both commented on the starter's increased comfort level this year after the Japanese import endured a grueling spring training in 2012, complete with a huge media contingent reporting on his every move. That group is much smaller this season and not nearly as intense with scrutiny.

The results on the mound this spring indicate his improved mindset. In fact, the one hole in Darvish's game was his penchant for giving up walks. He allowed 89 in 191.1 innings last season. Washington said the free passes are somewhat a product of Darvish's elusive pitching style. However, the 26-year-old has shown an added ability to get hitters out and stay in the strike zone more this spring.

Through 8.2 innings in three spring starts, Darvish has allowed two walks. He will be stretched out further today. If he continues to pitch well this spring and maintains that command while going through the traditional spring training process of "working on stuff," then there will be a lot of excitement about how much better he could be in 2013.

Following today's outing, Darvish will make one more spring start before taking the hill on April 2 for the Rangers' second regular-season game against the Houston Astros.

Other team notes:

Injury notes: