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|Yu Darvish has earned the confidence of Ron Washington and the Rangers, and rightfully so.|
He has actually done the impossible, which is live up to most of the hype he received when he left Japan for the big leagues. He pitched well early, then fell into a bad streak for about two months. He nibbled too much and gravitated toward tricking hitters instead of blowing them away. Then there was the constant tinkering of his delivery, by both Darvish and Mike Maddux, as he searched for a rhythm and adjusted to the slightly larger and slicker baseball used in Major League Baseball. These days his delivery is smoother and the slight hesitation in his leg kick is gone. Whatever he's doing, it's working. He looks pretty much like the guy Jon Daniels and his scouting staff told us we'd be seeing after they agreed to contract terms with Darvish. That guy dominated the Japanese League, going 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA. Darvish overmatched the hitters in that league; big league hitters present a much more difficult challenge because they tend to swing from their ankles instead of slapping at the ball. Darvish, who seemingly throws too many pitches to count, no longer uses his entire repertoire in a single game. He'll figure out the three or four pitches working in his bullpen session before the game and stick to those. He throws strikes, confident his pitches have enough movement and velocity that few hitters will connect with the bat's sweet spot. And he has started pitching for himself instead of his country. No longer does he carry the weight of a nation on his back. "He quit trying to impress everyone," Washington said. "He had to do it for himself and the team. When things don't go right, he can't be concerned with how everyone is feeling. "All he needs to care about is what he thought about his performance. It doesn't matter what everyone in Japan feels about it. How he feels is all that matters." Right now, Darvish feels good. And that gives Washington and the Rangers hope this season will be remembered for more than an end-of-the-season collapse.