As I've said time and time again, it's just spring training, and the results are largely inconsequential. Still, it was a bit discouraging to watch Yu Darvish struggle mightily with his command in his second Cactus League start, this one against the Cleveland Indians.
For the second time in as many starts, Darvish pitched solely out of the stretch. Darvish started the game out by walking Michael Brantley, who was quickly erased as he was caught stealing by Yorvit Torrealba. Darvish went on and walked Asdrubal Cabrera, who, like Brantley, was caught stealing.
Darvish then got out in front of Shin-Soo Choo on a 1-2 count, before running the count full and eventually striking Choo out on a curveball swinging.
Darvish's second inning was much better. Facing Travis Hafner, Darvish jumped ahead to a 1-2 count before Hafner popped out weakly to first on an offspeed offering. Darvish then ran the count to 0-2 on Jose Lopez, before Lopez delivered a broken bat single up the middle on a pitch that was out over the plate.
Nothing would come of Lopez, though, as Darvish struck out Jason Kipnis swinging on four pitches. Fred Lewis would strike out attempting to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch, but could not hold up and was rung up by the home plate umpire.
It is definitely worth noting that the Rangers touched up Josh Tomlin in the top half of the third inning for six runs, batting around in the lineup. It's particularly noteworthy since it is by far the longest time Darvish has had to wait between innings in his Cactus League starts thus far.
Jack Hannahan made hard contact against Darvish to open the third, sending a fly ball out to center field where Craig Gentry injured himself attempting to make the catch. Though it was scored a double, the ball did bounce off of Gentry's glove and could easily have been ruled an error.
Darvish would then walk Lou Marson and Brantley, loading the bases for Cabrera, who promptly singled, scoring Hannahan on the play. Another run would score as the next batter, Choo, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Darvish's day came to a close as Hafner flew out to centerfield, ending the third.
All in all, Darvish pitched three innings, allowing two runs on three hits, walking four and striking out three. Again, the results are entirely meaningless. What isn't meaningless is that Darvish struggled to command his pitches. It's still early in spring, and it was only Darvish's second start, but it's certainly what he'll have to work on his next time out, as he'll certainly need to command his fastball to get ahead in the count, rather than giving opposing hitters a 2-0 count to work with.
Still, Darvish's stuff looked good. His breaking stuff, for the most part, had the Indians off balance, and he mixed in his slow, mid-60s curveball with a harder 12-6 breaking ball (in the 70s) along with a slider.
Most pitchers who have great stuff can struggle with their command at times, and today proved that Darvish is no exception.