Yu Darvish to make debut on March 7

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish will make his first Cactus League start on March 7 in Peoria, Ariz., against the San Diego Padres. He's expected to throw two innings.

Perhaps the best news for Darvish about that start: It won't require pitching through a screen like he's doing now as part of the pitchers' throwing live batting practice early in camp.

Darvish threw 36 pitches to hitters on Monday and said he felt "very good" about the performance, mainly because he could move the screen to the side a little bit. It's something he isn't fully comfortable using while he pitches.

Rangers Double-A pitching coach Jeff Andrews moved the screen twice to get it right where Darvish wanted it and the pitcher then went about his business.

"The first two times I used the L-screen it was uncomfortable, but today I made an adjustment and the window was wider and I got a better view and I felt very good throwing," Darvish said through a translator.

Darvish showed off a full array of pitches on Monday, pounding the strike zone with his two-seamer, slider, splitter and changeup, among others. His movement impressed minor-league hitters Vincent DiFazio and Mike Bianucci.

"I was just happy to make contact a couple of times," DiFazio said.

Both hitters said they talked before the session about trying to hit a home run off the Japanese star, but knew that was unlikely.

"He doesn't make many mistakes that would give you a chance to hit a home run," said Bianucci, a Double-A hitter who marveled at Darvish's breaking stuff. "He threw a slider with great movement and then another breaking pitch that was like an illusion. It stops three-quarters away and then falls."

Darvish said he wasn't focused on any particular pitch, but more on how his body felt. Asked if he was throwing at 80 to 85 percent, Darvish quickly answered: "120."

Darvish said he's adjusting to throwing with a different baseball than the one he used in Japan, which was smaller and tackier. He threw with a big league ball as part of his offseason workouts in Japan, but said now that he's throwing in the United States, it feels better.

"The balls are moving better and it feels better in my hands," Darvish said.

Darvish threw with a bunch of Rangers scouts and officials looking on, not to mention manager Ron Washington, who didn't see Darvish throw to live hitters the last time.

"It was quality," Washington said. "He had life on his fastball, good sink, tight slider and nice breaking ball. It took him a few splitters to get a feel for it, but he did."

Darvish will throw 10 minutes to hitters again on Wednesday and is scheduled to pitch a little in Friday's intrasquad game. He continues to make the adjustments to pitching in the big leagues and getting used to his new teammates and surroundings.

"I haven't pitched in a game yet," Darvish said. "When I start to pitch against hitters with that mentality and trying to get the guy out, I think I'll get [a sense of] the true movement then."

Darvish's first spring start will be broadcast online through the club's web site and will be on television in Japan on NHK.

Richard Durrett covers the Texas Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.