Yu Darvish to have personal catcher

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish will have a personal catcher this season, as manager Ron Washington indicated his plan is for Geovany Soto to catch most of Darvish's starts.

Soto was behind the plate as Darvish made an impressive run down the stretch in 2012, going 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his final eight outings -- all quality starts. The club re-signed Soto to a one-year, $2.75 million contract earlier this offseason.

"I just think they had a good communication and a good relationship. I think Soto was in Darvish's head to the point that whatever Darvish felt like he wanted to do, Soto was doing it. They meshed very well. Soto had a way of relaxing a lot of pitchers he caught, not only Yu Darvish. I don't know much Japanese Soto knows, but he went out there and said something. I don't know if Yu understood, but it relaxed him."

Darvish, 26, returned to Texas for the club's annual Fan Fest and Awards Show and said he felt much more relaxed and comfortable than he did a year ago, when he was trying to finalize a contract to play in the big leagues.

Darvish, 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 starts (191 1/3 innings) and third in the AL rookie of the year voting, made some key adjustments as the season progressed and is focused on doing the same in 2013.

"Compared to last year, I feel so much more at ease," Darvish said through interpreter Joe Furukawa. "After finishing my first year, getting to know all the players, coaches, front-office personnel and getting to know all those guys, I feel like I'm a part of the team now. That's how I feel right now. (It's) a totally different feeling."

Darvish wants to apply what he did in the final seven weeks of the season to all of 2013. He dropped his walk total, issuing just 15 free passes with 67 strikeouts during that span. Opponents hit just .176 against him in the last eight regular-season starts.

"I'm happy with the way the season ended, especially the later part of the end of the season, but being satisfied with that won't work," Darvish said. "Every year will be different, the body feels different. This year, I'll adjust to the way I feel physically and attack this season like any new season."