Yu Darvish looks to be in complete control

How good has Yu Darvish been this spring? So good he has to invent ways to challenge himself.

Darvish worked 3 2/3 innings in his third start Monday in a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants and finally allowed his first run of the spring.

The right-hander said of the five hits he allowed, two came on pitches he wouldn't normally throw in those situations and two other were infield hits.

"Overall, I think today's outing was really good," Darvish said. "The last outing, I only pitched my fastball and slider. I threw everything but my two-seamer today."

Darvish was removed with two outs in the fourth inning, one out shy of how long he was scheduled to pitch. His pitch count was up after he threw 20 pitches in the third inning. He only threw 39 pitches in three innings during his last start. Darvish said he was doing some experimenting and that was somewhat to blame for the extra action in the third.

"The hit by (Hunter) Pence and also the last hit to right field, those were pitches I don't normally throw during the season," Daarvish said. "I wanted to try new things and they got a hit off them."

Darvish has looked very comfortable on the mound in his second spring with the Texas Rangers. Last season, more than 100 international media members would follow him and meticulously detail every aspect of his performance. This year, the contingency is maybe one quarter that size. The difference in Darvish is noticeable.

"It looks like he is comfortable in his surroundings," manager Ron Washington said. "I don't think he is trying to prove anything to anyone. He is just trying to get ready for the season."

Darvish continues to show improved command, walking only two batters in 8 2/3 innings this spring. He walked 89 batters in 191 1/3 innings last season, but started to limit the free passes later in the season. Many were interested if Darvish would show signs this spring of being able to build upon his finish and reduce that total this season.

If Monday is any indication, that may be the case. Darvish struck out five with his slider and didn't walk a batter Tuesday.

"For two innings he had a snap-dragon slider, a lot of pop on his fastball," Washington said. "It was quick and sharp and had a lot of break to it. He had a lot of pretty good hitters buckling at the knees today."

Through three spring starts, Darvish has a 1.04 ERA on five hits and 10 strikeouts. The hits today were the first ones he's given up all spring.