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Darvish impresses in Rangers’ spring opener

AP

Yu Darvish struck out four in two innings of the spring opener for Texas, and Prince Fielder hit a towering solo homer as the Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 11-7 on Thursday.

Darvish, who led the majors with 277 strikeouts and was second in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season, threw 23 of 29 pitches for strikes. His first pitch to all eight batters faced was a strike.

“I think it worked out very well,” Darvish said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s pitchers meetings and I think (pitching coach Mike) Maddux is going to praise my performance. . . . There’s a lot of life to my fastball, a lot of movement on my slider.”

The Rangers struggled at times last year to score runs behind Darvish, who was the first pitcher since 1989 to have four 1-0 losses in the same season.

“Hopefully we can turn that around,” Fielder said.

Right fielder Norichika Aoki, Kansas City’s first position player from Japan, led off for the Royals by striking out against Darvish.

“He was in a different league in Japan, so I didn’t really face him too much,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “He felt like the same Darvish.”

That was the only time facing Darvish for Aoki, who finished 0-for-3.

“I think I faced Aoki like any other hitter,” Darvish said. “He seemed really aggressive. He seemed like he wanted to hit, so I really wanted to strike him out.”

Texas led 4-0 before Darvish’s final pitch in the Cactus League opener, and never trailed.

Fielder, acquired in a trade from Detroit for Ian Kinsler, had a weak grounder in the first inning. In the third, he pulled a homer over the Rangers bullpen.

“Just got lucky. (He) threw it where my bat was going,” Fielder said.