SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After facing Yu Darvish for the first time in an intrasquad game on Friday afternoon, Texas Rangers leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler said he was pleased he won't have to hit against him in 2012.
"I'm glad he's on our team, no doubt about that," Kinsler said. "We're really excited about having him here."
Darvish, with a host of photographers using ladders to get the best view possible on a back field at Surprise Recreation Campus, got his first chance to pitch against some of the Rangers' top hitters. He threw 21 pitches in one inning of work to four hitters, getting three outs and a walk.
It was one more step in Darvish's progression toward preparing for the Cactus League season and then the regular season. He has thrown five-minute and 10-minute sessions to batters the past week to go along with his bullpen sessions. And after Friday's inning to hitters, he is now on target to make his first start in a game next Wednesday in Peoria against the San Diego Padres. Darvish is expected to throw two innings in that game.
The 6-foot-5, 216-pound starter wasn't totally pleased with his effort on Friday. He said he had fun throwing to some of the best hitters in the game, but felt his mechanics weren't where they needed to be. Asked if his fastball was close to where he wants it 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."
But he showed he doesn't lack for confidence. He fell behind 3-0 to Kinsler, was able to get a couple of strikes and then catcher Dusty Brown asked for a two-seam fastball. Darvish, who said he was told by pitching coach Mike Maddux not to be afraid to shake off a catcher and throw the pitch he wants, shook off Brown until he got a slider. Kinsler was out in front of it and hit a shallow fly ball to left field.
"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 started Andrus off with a slow curve ball.
"It was super slow," Andrus said of the 66-mph pitch.
He followed that up with a 94-mph fastball, giving Andrus a different look. He eventually struck out the shortstop on a sinker that had dropped.
"It's going to be a great pitch for him this season," Andrus said.
Hamilton walked on five pitches and felt that Darvish looked a little nervous. Darvish said he wasn't nervous, just not "satisfied" with his delivery. And he didn't blame the winds, which were gusting in the Arizona desert on Friday. Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, left the at-bat impressed.
"Overall, he looked great," Hamilton said. "He looks very confident on the mound and obviously that will continue to grow as he pitches in more games."
Maddux, who watched Darvish from behind home plate, was glad the pitcher got through his inning in less than 25 pitches (the max the coach was going to allow any pitcher to throw on Friday).
"I don't think we saw the best of him," 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."
Darvish's fastball touched 96 mph and he threw some two-seam fastballs with good late movement. Brown was cognizant of the fact that Darvish would only be in the game for one inning and wanted to mix things up and let him throw many of his different pitches.
"I thought it was a good outing," Brown said. "The command wasn't quite what he wanted, but his movement is impressive. That curve just stops and drops at the plate. It's a video-game pitch."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.