Darvish walked four batters and allowed two runs on three hits in three innings in the Rangers' 8-8, 10-inning game against the Cleveland Indians.
"I think it was a positive step towards me getting ready for the season today," Darvish said through an interpreter. "My command was way off. Several pitch situations where it could've been an awful outing, but I was able to battle and get out of there with two runs."
After a visit to the mound from pitching coach Mike Maddux with the bases loaded in the third, Darvish gave up an RBI single to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on a 2-2 count. Darvish minimized the damage by inducing an RBI double-play grounder to second by Shin-Soo Choo.
Manager Ron Washington thought about pulling Darvish before the double-play ball, but opted to let Darvish finish the inning. Designated hitter Travis Hafner flied to center to end the third.
"There are going to be some days when he's going to battle to get some outs, and he did that today," Washington said.
Darvish tried to get ahead in the count with his fastball, but his command was off from the start. He struggled with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, but said his curveball, splitter and slider weren't that bad.
"Conditioning-wise, I didn't feel that good, which probably caused my command to be off today," Darvish said.
Seven of Darvish's first eight pitches were balls. He walked the first two batters, but both were caught stealing by catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
"If Torrealba wasn't catching today, I think I probably would've given up about 10 runs today," Darvish said.
Darvish looked like he was beginning to find a groove when he struck out Choo to end the first. He retired the first batter in the second on a popup before Jose Lopez poked a broken-bat single up the middle. Darvish then struck out Jason Kipnis with a splitter and Fred Lewis to end the second. He finished with three strikeouts.
"The difference in speed between his off-speed and his fastball is a big thing where you're not going to get a barrel on a lot balls that you might in the past because you're just off-balanced," Kipnis said. "... If he can locate and keep the ball down and he gets double plays or gets help from the catcher like that, he's going to get through innings real fast."
Darvish ran into trouble in the third after allowing a leadoff double to Jack Hannahan. Outfielder Craig Gentry laid out to try to make the catch but landed awkwardly and had to leave with a mild left wrist sprain. Darvish gave up back-to-back walks to load the bases.
"It's not like I felt something in the second inning and lost it in the third inning," Darvish said. "Overall, this whole day, even from the first to the third, I was off on my fastball. I don't think my life on the fastball was where I wanted it to be as well."
Darvish said his approach was the same as in his first outing when he pitched two scoreless innings and allowed two hits against the San Diego Padres on March 7. He wanted to pitch without a specific plan in his first two starts, but said he needs to mix his pitches up when his command is off.
"There's going to be days like that. He's human," Torrealba said. "Believe or not, he's human. He's going to go up there and probably get hit or probably get wild, but he's going to learn."
Darvish is scheduled to make his third start Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Surprise Stadium.