Greg Maddux: 'Sky is the limit' for Darvish

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greg Maddux, whose Hall of Fame career includes four straight Cy Young Awards and 18 Gold Glove Awards, heaped praise upon Rangers starter Yu Darvish on Thursday.

"The sky is the limit for him," Maddux said. "He's got four quality pitches. He's pitched now over here for two years. Hopefully, he's a lot more relaxed and Americanized, or however you want to say it. I think if he continues to be better and wants to be better, there's no telling how well he can do."

Maddux said he believes Darvish is "one of the top pitchers in the game" right now, adding that the numbers "could be sky-high for him." General manager Jon Daniels has credited Maddux with helping Darvish on the mental side of the game. Maddux instead gave Darvish the credit.

"I think you have to figure it out on your own, and I think that's what he's doing and what he'll continue to do," Maddux said. "I can't really sit here and say I helped him. Every pitch he threw, he threw. Every good fastball and good slider he threw last year, he did that by himself. I think he's no different than most pitchers. I think if you can focus on the right things, I think you'll be able to make better pitches more consistently. I think sometimes we get away from that as players, and it's just good to be reminded sometimes on what the right things to concentrate on are."

Darvish is in Japan preparing for his third season in the big leagues. He's coming off a 2013 campaign in which he was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 209 2/3 innings pitched. He led the league with 277 strikeouts and was the runner-up to Max Scherzer for the AL Cy Young Award. If there was anything he could improve upon (and it's tough to find those things), it is his ability to hold leads late. He didn't get consistent offensive support from his team, but he also gave away some leads late in close, low-scoring games.

Still, that's a nitpick after a terrific season in which he proved, once again, that he could make the adjustment from playing in Japan to getting big league hitters out. Maddux mentioned that Darvish paved the way for Masahiro Tanaka, who just received a seven-year, $155 million deal (he can opt-out after four years) from the New York Yankees.

And Darvish has a Hall of Famer convinced that he's only going to get better.