Yu Darvish not worried before debut

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Yu Darvish said he has no concerns with his neck entering Sunday's start against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Texas Rangers' right-hander spoke with the media following a light throwing session prior to Friday's contest at Tropicana Field, and said his strength and power "felt really well."

Darvish had been slotted to be the team's Opening Day starter, but a stiff neck caused the Texas brass to push him back until this weekend. He hasn't faced a batter since a Cactus League contest March 16.

Speaking through an interpreter, Darvish, who received an injection to quell inflammation in his back in October, said he feels he is just as ready as he would have been without the setback, which was the only physical issue he had this spring.

"What do I have to be concerned about?" Darvish said when asked what his biggest worry was heading into Sunday. "There have been days where I have gone 45 days without throwing, and I certainly didn't have any concerns then. I'm not concerned now."

Darvish also said he wouldn't be on any specific pitch count, but he emphasized he wouldn't try to approach any astronomical amount of pitches.

"I don't think I'm going to be throwing 120 pitches or anything like that, but I'm not worried about my pitch count," Darvish said.

Earlier in the week, manager Ron Washington was just as confident about the Texas ace.

"He's still as strong as an ox," Washington said. "He's ready to go."

Darvish, who begins his third season with the Rangers, pitched 209 2/3 innings in 32 starts last season, finishing as the runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award balloting after compiling a 2.83 ERA and leading the league with 277 strikeouts.