Baseball: Darvish out with stiff neck but aims for opener

Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers missed his scheduled starting assignment Friday in a developmental-level game because of a stiff neck, the Major League Baseball club announced.

Darvish, who blamed the stiffness on a poor sleeping position two nights ago, had been expected to throw 90 pitchers.

The 27-year-old right-hander said he expects to be fine and pitch in his next scheduled start, likely next Wednesday against Seattle on the final day of Texas' pre-season training camp.

That would keep Darvish in line with the Rangers' plan to start in the team's regular-season opener against Philadelphia on March 31.

The team said the problem was not considered serious and not related to back troubles Darvish suffered last season.

Darvish went 13-9 with a 2.83 earned-run average and a major-league best 277 strikeouts over 209 2/3 innings last season. He finished second in voting for the Cy Young Award as the American League's top pitcher.