SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish's contract was never an issue in Spring Training. Neither was his health.The big issue early in camp was whether Darvish would resume throwing his high-stress split-fingered fastball. He tried a few times and then stopped, much to the relief of pitching coach Doug Brocail.Brocail has
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish's contract was never an issue in Spring Training. Neither was his health.
The big issue early in camp was whether Darvish would resume throwing his high-stress split-fingered fastball. He tried a few times and then stopped, much to the relief of pitching coach Doug Brocail.
Brocail has been trying to have Darvish simplify his vast arsenal, which appears to be whittled down to fastball, sinker, slider and an offspeed pitch to be named or tried later.
That done, Darvish enjoyed a smooth and quiet spring marked by the birth of his son. Even with that blessed event, Darvish still got his work done with precision craftsmanship. The birth occurred between a start against the Reds and a bullpen session on the side.
"I think he is in a very good spot," manager Jeff Banister said. "The fastball velocity, the ability to locate the fastball, the dynamic [sinker] life has been a big plus. The feel for the secondary pitches has been good. We are very pleased where he is at."
The contract discussions -- if any -- have been kept quiet. If being a free agent after the upcoming season is a problem, Darvish hasn't shown it. He has maintained what Banister calls "laser focus" as he approaches the much-anticipated Opening Day start against the Indians on Monday at 6:05 p.m. CT at Globe Life Park.
"It's an honor to be the Opening Day starter, and making me the Opening Day starter, it's a really big honor," Darvish said. "Two years ago, I couldn't even tell whether I'd be able to return to the mound after Tommy John surgery, and I'm grateful for the team for handing me this massive role."
The Rangers have been waiting for this since, well, maybe since they first submitted their posting bid for Darvish in December 2011. It took a $51.7 million post and a six-year, $56.6 million offer to get his name on a contract.
That contract was laced with American League Cy Young Award bonuses, and Darvish did come close in 2013, finishing second to Max Scherzer. The elbow problems started creeping up the following season and Darvish finally underwent Tommy John elbow on March 17, 2015. He made it back last year and was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts.
The Rangers think Darvish will be even better this year as he gets farther away from the surgery. The club was watching him closely this spring, not only to see if he would be ready for the season, but also to see if he would be worth the massive investment it will take to re-sign him beyond this season.
"With guys coming back from Tommy John [surgery] and don't have a full season behind them, you want to see how they respond after the offseason," Banister said. "He put to rest every concern based on how he was feeling and how the ball was coming out of his hand. He's our Opening Day guy. He earned it. He's had a real good spring."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.