STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
SURPRISE, Ariz. (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 through his interpreter. “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.
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, well beyond the 350-foot sign on the right field fence.
“Just got lucky. (He) threw it where my bat was going,” Fielder said. “Obviously they don’t count, but they’re definitely good for you mentally.”
Royals: Bruce Chen, going into his sixth season with Kansas City, allowed two runs and four hits in two innings. The Royals had errors on consecutive plays behind him, making one of the runs unearned. The left-hander threw 18 of 26 pitches for strikes.
Rangers: Alexi Ogando is scheduled to start for Texas in Friday’s game against the Royals — this time with Texas as the home team in the complex they share.
Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison threw for the first time in 11 days, at about 120 feet on flat ground.
“My back felt great. Everything felt really good,” Harrison said.
Harrison made only two starts last season before two operations on a herniated disk in his lower back. He had been sidelined by neck and back stiffness before getting cleared by an exam in Texas with the doctor who did the operations.
Danny Duffy, a candidate to be the Royals’ No. 5 starter, was trying to throw in on the hands of Fielder.
“I left it over the plate and he smoked it,” Duffy said. “It was the right mindset, but I didn’t execute.”
Brent Lillibridge also homered for Texas.
Kansas City got homers from Danny Valencia and Justin Maxwell, the later with a bit of an assist.
Rangers left fielder Bryan Petersen was trying to make a play on Maxwell’s deep flyball, which instead went off his glove and over the fence. Peterson followed that with a nice running catch to end the seventh.
Right fielder Norichika Aoki, Kansas City’s first position player from Japan, led off for the Royals by striking out against the Texas ace from Japan.
“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.”
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