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Yu is first: Rangers manager Washington informs Darvish he'll start season opener

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SURPRISE, Ariz. - Yu Darvish got the official nod that should surprise no one. The ace from Japan will be the opening day starter for the Rangers.

Texas manager Ron Washington told Darvish on Tuesday that he will start March 31 at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I just wanted to give him an opportunity to have time to have it sink in and prepare, that's it," Washington said.

Darvish is going into his third major league season. He started the second game last season, when he came within one out of a perfect game against Houston. He went on to lead the majors with 277 strikeouts and finish second in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

Washington said he presented the news to Darvish like he has each year — and this will be the sixth different opening day starter in six years for Texas. He just told Darvish, who had the kind of reaction the manager expected.

"Yu is the kind of guy that doesn't show a whole lot of emotion. He was excited in what he said, he's going to work his tail off to make certain that he does a good job," Washington said. "Sometimes he gets excited, but he does a good job of tempering his excitement."

Tabbing Darvish the opening day starter was one of the easiest decisions Washington will have all spring.

Darvish is 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA in his 61 games with the Rangers over the past two seasons, and his 498 strikeouts are the most in the majors during that span. The right-hander was 13-9 last year, when he was the first pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1989 to suffer four 1-0 losses in the same season.

The last Rangers starter with consecutive opening day starts was Kevin Millwood from 2006 to 2009. Matt Harrison, last year's opening day starter, likely won't be ready for the start of the season after neck and back stiffness this spring.

Harrison was back in camp Tuesday after returning from an exam in Texas with the doctor who performed two operations on a herniated disk in his lower back last season after the pitcher made only two starts. Harrison said he felt good, and hopes to resume throwing by Thursday.

Washington said he believes that Darvish understands the significance of being the opening day starter. The manager said being in that spot also sends a message that he is a leader.

"Yeah, i think that's exactly what the message is," Washington said. "I think it's no doubt that he knows he's our horse."

Notes: Left-handed reliever Joseph Ortiz said Tuesday he was texting on his phone while walking across the street when he was hit by a motorcycle while home in Venezuela last month. It was the first time Ortiz discussed the accident that left him with a broken left foot and out for at least two more months. Ortiz said the motorcycle was going about 55 mph when it ran over his foot near an intersection. ... RHP Nick Tepesch didn't pitch as scheduled in an intrasquad game because of tightness in his back. Tepesch, a candidate for the starting rotation, said he felt better and that it was mostly a precautionary move.

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