Year two of Yu begins Tuesday night

HOUSTON — Yu Darvish will make his 2013 debut Tuesday night against the Houston Astros, and big things are expected from him in his second season in the majors.

Darvish, who did everything the club expected of him last season, has a comfort level this year that he didn’t have to start his rookie year in the majors.

That could make for some very long nights for Texas opponents.

“I know this spring Yu seemed very comfortable,” Texas general manager Jon Daniels said. “On the club, what he was doing with the competition. There were a lot of things he had to adjust to last year and he did a tremendous job of it. He seems to be comfortable in his own skin, comfortable with the staff, comfortable on the club. We look for that to continue.”

The right-hander didn’t seem too uncomfortable last year, becoming just the fourth rookie to win at least 16 games and strike out at least 200 batters in the last 100 seasons.

Despite those gaudy numbers, there were times when Darvish struggled. That may be the case at times this year, but there’s also a chance that he gives the Rangers something they haven’t had since Cliff Lee was with the club to close 2010 — a legitimate ace.

Darvish isn’t thinking about being an ace or winning a Cy Young Award. His focus is on staying healthy and making his starts. Everything else will take care of itself.

“It’s really hard to quantify how much comfort level I have at this time compared to last year,” Darvish said. “I can say that having one year under my belt I’m more relaxed at this time. I know how things are run in America, so I feel a lot more comfortable.”

He got more comfortable as the 2012 season went on, and it showed. In his final six regular season starts, Darvish went 5-1 with a 1.85 ERA and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.

One of the keys to his late-season surge was his decision to go with his best stuff and not try to throw every pitch in his arsenal.

“The guy’s got 29 pitches and sometimes he goes out there and tries to throw 29 pitches,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He figured out what a pitcher’s supposed to do when he goes to the bullpen. He knows what he’s got when comes out of there (the bullpen) and threw it until he had to change. He figured it out.”

Year two of Yu will be different. Darvish has a better idea of what to expect out of hitters he’s never faced, and the hitters have a better idea of what to expect out of Darvish. Outside the organization, the advantage seems to be with Darvish.

He’s among several pitchers who have been tabbed Cy Young favorites. One betting side has Darvish as the No. 3 choice to win the American League Cy Young.

None of that matters to Darvish though.

“Just stay healthy throughout the season and keep working hard,” Darvish said of his expectations.

If he does that, Yu Version 2.0 should be plenty good enough.