It wasn’t all bad news on the injury front for the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
Sure, the day started on a down note with news that left-hander Cole Hamels had to be scratched from his scheduled start because of neck stiffness. But then shortstop Elvis Andrus took the field for the first time in five weeks to do baseball activities, and right-hander Doug Fister shined in Hamels' absence.
But a late meltdown by the bullpen spoiled Fister's best outing of the season Thursday and left the Rangers on the losing end of a 4-2 decision to open a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox, who have won the fewest games of any team in the major leagues.
Fister exited after seven scoreless innings and the Rangers leading 2-0. Jose Leclerc got two quick outs in the eighth, but then the next five batters reached. By the end of the inning, the White Sox had scored four runs — all unearned.
None of it sat well with manager Jeff Banister, who was ejected in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Paul Nauert.
With that, Andrus' return to baseball activities served as the best news of the day.
He went through them for the first time since landing on the disabled list with a fractured ulna bone in his right elbow on April 13 (retroactive to April 12).
Simply playing catch for the first time brought a smile to Andrus’ face.
"Never thought that I was going to say this, but it was pretty cool to play catch again, man," Andrus said. "It feels good. First day of actually doing something, so I feel like I’m part of the team again. It feels good, man. It’s been hard, but trying to take my time and come back stronger."
Andrus went through the drills at half-speed, at best. He played catch, took easy grounders and ran. He hopes he’ll be able to begin swinging a bat as early as next Thursday, which would be the six-week mark of his injury.
Andrus is hopeful he’ll be ready to play in rehab games a couple weeks after that and return to the big leagues when he’s eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list – June 11.
And Andrus believes he’ll come back better than ever.
"Oh, yeah, my legs feel amazing. I haven’t felt this fresh in a while," Andrus said. "I know, especially the next couple of weeks, is going to be a little hard cause I need to get the running and myself and the timing for games. I know I’m already fresher and every part of my body – besides that broken bone – feels better."
Manager Jeff Banister believes that Andrus getting back on the field should serve as a morale boost for the team. Andrus is the longest-tenured Ranger on the team and brings an infectious energy to the clubhouse.
"It’s encouraging to see him without a brace out on the field doing some baseball activities," Banister said. "I think that’s a start of the pathway to the end for him."
Andrus got off to a hot start before landing on the DL. He was batting .327 with two home runs, three doubles and five RBIs through the first 14 games.