Yu Darvish’s expected return is now imminent after Rangers team officials announced Wednesday that the right-hander will make his season debut Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida.
Darvish missed his first start on Opening Day because of a sore neck, but has passed all the requisite stress tests, including what manager Ron Washington termed a “hefty” bullpen session on Tuesday.
“He’s ready to go,” Washington said. “He came into spring training in tip-top shape and then had a little setback. Once his neck cleared up, it didn’t look like he lost anything.”
Darvish’s return necessitates pushing Tanner Scheppers back a day, to Monday against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Scheppers will be followed by Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, said Washington, who wasn’t willing to forecast beyond that or, at least, admit it if he had.
The development has no effect on plans to start Joe Saunders on Friday and Nick Martinez on Saturday.
Darvish isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list until Saturday, but his return is more than welcome news for a team whose rotation has been wiped out by injuries.
The right-hander was shut down and put on the 15-day disabled list after persistent neck stiffness in spring training. All concerned were relieved to find out that a more thorough exam by a specialist showed no structural damage.
Darvish won’t be on a pitch count, Washington said, though “I’m not going to let him throw 115-120 pitches.”
Others on mend
News Wednesday was positive concerning two other broken-down starters.
Lefty Derek Holland (knee) threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday and reported no problems. Holland, who is aiming for a June return, will travel to Surprise, Ariz., and throw again on Saturday.
Matt Harrison (back) will throw four innings and 65 pitches in a rehabilitation start Thursday with Double A Frisco. The plan is to do the same in his next start on five days’ rest.
“Everything has felt great,” said Harrison, who missed all but two starts last year. “Each time out, things have gotten better and better.”
Colby Lewis made a rehabilitation start Tuesday, though Washington said he had had no conversation about what’s next for the right-hander, who is coming back from hip surgery.
Confidence in Saunders
Veteran left-hander Joe Saunders, who will make his Rangers debut on Friday, enjoys the confidence of his manager despite leaving something to be desired in his last two starts of the spring.
Saunders gave up 16 runs on 24 hits in 12 2/3 innings.
“His last outing in San Antonio” against the Astros, Washington said, “a lot of people looked at the results. No one noticed that he finished his fastball better, a better changeup and sharper breaking balls.
“The guy has a track record and we have confidence that he’ll throw a good game on Friday.”
Russell Wilson threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia, his most recent duty carried out as a member of the Rangers’ organization.
He’ll take care of some personal business, too. Wilson, a Rule 5 pick of the Rangers in December, will stay in town to watch Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday. Wilson played his last season of college eligibility there.
“It’s exciting that they’re down here. I picked Wisconsin to win the whole thing.”