ARLINGTON, Texas — Yu Darvish ended his first season with the Texas Rangers starting a postseason game. The right-hander from Japan hasn’t pitched in October since that wild-card game in 2012.
After missing the 2015 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Darvish will make his AL Division Series debut Friday when he starts Game 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“It’s a great thing for me. Last year … I wanted to pitch, but I couldn’t,” Darvish said Thursday through his interpreter. “This year, I’m physically healthy and I’m ready. I can pitch in the game. So I’m happy about that.”
Darvish (7-5, 3.41 ERA) started this season on the disabled list while still rehabbing from the elbow surgery he had during spring training in March 2015. After his season debut May 28 this year, he made three starts before missing another five weeks because of shoulder discomfort.
A regular in the rotation since mid-July , Darvish goes into the postseason after winning his last two starts. He allowed one earned run over 13 innings in wins over Oakland and Tampa Bay.
“I’ve been working on my command and stuff,” he said. “I was thinking too much about commanding my stuff. And then when I was able to fix those mental adjustments, and just a few minor mechanics changes on those days that I was able to work on, and I’m in a (good) place right now.”
Left-hander J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.18) starts Friday for the Blue Jays.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Darvish is at his best when he’s excited. The pitcher has exhibited that emotion at several different times this season.
“An extremely accomplished pitcher. I feel comfortable with where he’s at mentally, physically,” Banister said.
Darvish hasn’t pitched against the Blue Jays since before his surgery. He is 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in seven career starts against them, with 61 strikeouts in 47 2-3 innings.
The 30-year-old Darvish spent seven seasons in Japan before signing a six-year deal with the Rangers that goes through next season. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span when he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season.
In that 5-1 loss to Baltimore in the 2012 AL wild-card game, Darvish struck out seven and allowed three runs (two earned) in 6 2-3 innings.
Asked how he is different as a pitcher since then, Darvish replied: “Both physically and mentally stronger.”