SURPRISE, Ariz. Significant springtime injuries, apparently like celebrity deaths, come in threes. Just ask the Texas Rangers, whose season could be headed to an early grave if Yu Darvish is suffering from something worse than neck stiffness.
The right-hander on Tuesday became the latest key contributor who won’t be available for Opening Day. Darvish was scratched Tuesday from his start in the season opener and will see specialist Dr. Drew Dossett on Wednesday in Dallas to get a better read on the neck issue.
The Rangers haven’t said that Darvish is headed to the disabled list, nor have they announced who will replace him Monday against Philadelphia at Globe Life Park. A DL move, though, seems likely considering that Darvish hasn’t thrown in a game since March 16 and hasn’t eclipsed the 100-pitch mark.
Darvish doesn’t think his injury is anything worse than lingering muscle tightness after sleeping on his neck wrong, an issue that he said could be alleviated with a cortisone injection or by an acupuncturist.
The Rangers are hoping he is right.
“It’s going to take a little bit longer,” Darvish said. “If it were a shoulder injury or an elbow injury, I’d be really disappointed. But this is something that happened when I woke up. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if I should be disappointed. It is what it is.”
Martin Perez would seem to be the front-runner to start the opener, but some want Tanner Scheppers even though it would be his first major-league start. The left-handed Perez said that he solved a mechanical issue Monday as he threw 102 pitches over six innings of a minor-league game.
His last big-league start came in Game 163 last season in a win-or-go-home scenario before a sold-out home crowd. Starting on Opening Day might not be as stressful for the left-hander, who turns 23 on April 4, because of his big-game experience last year.
Manager Ron Washington wouldn’t give any hint as to who would take the mound against the Phillies, though he ruled out right-hander Colby Lewis. The Rangers might not decide who will fill in for Darvish until before they head to San Antonio this weekend for two exhibition games against Houston.
“Somebody is going to replace him,” Washington said. “We haven’t decided it yet. We’ve got five guys that we’ll have in that rotation. With all the injuries, we’re just in a dilemma, and we’ve just got to play it out.”
The Rangers could once again turn to Alexi Ogando to take a rotation spot if Darvish is ruled out for a longer stretch. Ogando opened camp as a starter but was moved to the bullpen last week after Scheppers won a spot in the rotation.
Robbie Ross appears to be a shoo-in for the rotation, and the Rangers are leaning toward fellow left-hander Joe Saunders take the final spot. Everything will change when Darvish, Lewis and former All-Star Matt Harrison are deemed ready.
The Rangers are faced with plenty of ifs, especially on Darvish.
“We want to start ruling some things out at this point,” assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “At this stage, we, unfortunately, are open to the fact that it may be more than just sleeping wrong.
“We’ll know more tomorrow. We need to do what’s right for Yu at this point. We’re playing 162 games, and we’re not going to be overly aggressive the first week and cost ourselves further harm.”
The Rangers continue to seek help at catcher and second base, where Geovany Soto (right knee) and Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) will be gone for at least 10 weeks.
The club signed free-agent catcher Chris Snyder to a minor-league deal Tuesday, but he is expected to serve as depth at Triple A after being released by Washington. J.P. Arencibia and Robinson Chirinos are set to be the Rangers’ catching tandem.
The Rangers haven’t been tempted by any of the infielders who have been released or opted out of their minor-league deals with other clubs the past few days. If an infielder is added, it would more likely be via a trade.
One possibility is Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, who essentially is keeping a spot warm for top prospect Javier Baez. Also, the Rangers could target Toronto utility man Maicer Izturis.
But their bigger concern is Darvish and the rotation.
“We’re going to handle this the right way,” Levine said. “But at this stage we don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with.”