Chris Gimenez helped navigate Darvish, who essentially calls his own game anyway, through seven innings in a 9-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Oh, and the 31-year-old gave the pitcher more than just support behind the plate -- Gimenez had four hits in his second game as a Ranger.
“Not only is he a great player, but he's a great person,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “He let me do whatever I wanted to do, so I felt good.”
The “let me do whatever I wanted to do” worked just fine Thursday. Darvish wasn’t at his best -- he admitted that after the game -- but he made the pitches he needed to early and was ahead 9-0 going into the bottom of the fourth.
Gimenez talked with Darvish before the game, going over the tendencies of the hitters, but it wasn't some drawn-out discussion or a huge meet-and-greet session. Darvish is in his third year in the major leagues. He has a better sense of the hitters, pitching coach Mike Maddux has a better sense of Darvish's skills, and there's a plan put in place. Gimenez and Darvish followed it Thursday and held one of the best offenses in the game to just two runs on six hits. He did it despite three walks and six strikeouts and without his dominating stuff.
"He's going to do what he wants to do," said Gimenez, who previously played with Cleveland, Seattle and Tampa Bay before landing with Texas. "I was trying to be on the same page. We did have a couple of chats. I've watched a bunch of video on him to try to get a feel for him in certain situations and what's his go-to pitch. He threw a lot of fastballs. He did a good job of challenging them."
Gimenez said he was trying to gauge how Darvish's ball moves and now has a better idea. So what about the slider?
"It's disgusting," Gimenez said. "He could tell you he's going to throw it and you'd still get out."
Gimenez joked that he was thankful he "didn't screw anything up."
He added that his four hits were just an afterthought. His focus was making sure Darvish was comfortable -- and he certainly did a good job of that.
Martin feels better, plays: Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin said he felt better Thursday, but was held out of the lineup initially because Detroit had a left-hander on the mound. But when Daniel Robertson went out in the third inning after of a collision with Alex Rios, Martin entered the game. He was 2-for-4 and said he felt good.
Soria getting it done with limited activity: Joakim Soria hasn't exactly had a bunch of chances to save games so far this season, but when the right-hander has taken the mound in the ninth, he has done the job, notching eight saves in eight chances. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he sees the Soria who was an All-Star in 2010 with the Kansas City Royals before rehabbing from a second Tommy John surgery.
"He can hit a gnat," Washington said. "He's got tremendous command. He pitches. He doesn't just go out there and overpower you. He pitches. It's the same one that was in Kansas City. He may not have the velocity, but he can still command that baseball."
Minor league stint gets Baker ready: Scott Baker is set to become the latest Rangers pitcher to take the mound as member of the rotation, slated for Friday night against Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers.
Baker, 32, said he didn't have the kind of spring training he wanted because he wasn't using his lower body properly. The right-hander made the mechanical adjustment while playing for Triple-A Round Rock early this season and watched his fastball command vastly improve.
"I got out of whack and when that happens with me, it affects all my pitches," Baker said. "Once you make that adjustment, it allows you to be more crisp. I have to make sure I put myself in a good position to make all my pitches."