The final 20 minutes of Texas Rangers batting practice early Saturday evening gave those who like a good conspiracy theory, namely the media, plenty of good material.
And, it turns out, the conspiracy theorists were right.
Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start Monday after experiencing the same shoulder and neck stiffness that forced him out of his Wednesday start after only five innings.
Darvish will travel back to Arlington for an MRI and an exam with team physician Dr. Keith Meister. A starter for Monday at Oakland has not been announced, but left-hander Cesar Ramos is a leading candidate.
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Darvish said that the checkup is only a precaution.
“I have heard it’s common for players that have had Tommy John surgery to have issues like this,” Darvish said in a statement. “Right now, I don’t want to push it and make it worse. It’s a precaution. We hope it’s nothing serious and that I can be back soon.”
I don’t want to push it and make it worse. It’s a precaution. We hope it’s nothing serious and that I can be back soon.
The news came roughly two hours after an interesting scene unfolded in the visitor’s bullpen at Safeco field, and Darvish was squarely in the middle of it all.
Coming off Tommy John surgery and his abbreviated start, Darvish was locked in a serious conversation with pitching coach Doug Brocail, bullpen coach Brad Holman, translator Hide Sato and athletic trainer Matt Lucero.
Lucero made a phone call at one point during the conversation, which broke up to allow Darvish to throw some pitches. He threw only a handful of pitches, not at all at full effort, before the group headed to the dugout just before batting practice ended.
Lucero then made one more phone call and said something to Darvish as he went into the clubhouse. He was supposed to emerge again to speak with the media, his custom two days before a start, but instead sent a club official out to tell the group that Darvish was unavailable but still scheduled to start Monday.
Manager Jeff Banister had said the same thing about two hours earlier, but also said that the Rangers have considered dropping a spot starter into the American League’s top rotation at some point during 20 games in 20 days.
The thought was it would come later in the stretch. The bullpen scene, though, suggested that might get pushed up, and that was confirmed in the fourth inning of a late game against the Seattle Mariners.
“In this type of situation, as they come off their start, there’s that continued process of getting ready for their next start day,” Banister said during his daily pregame media session. “I’m always cognizant of the fact that a scheduled start, you assume they’re going to start but you’re prepared if you don’t.
“We’re still looking at it because of the stretch we’re in, when that time could be and also if it’s necessary. We’re prepared for that if we needed to. I think there are a lot of benefits to it.”
Ramos would seem to be the choice because Triple A starters Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez, both on the 40-man roster, pitched Thursday and Friday and wouldn’t be available.
Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse, signed to a Triple A contract last month, is scheduled to start Sunday for Round Rock, but he isn’t on the 40-man roster.
Darvish is 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA after his first three starts, covering 15 2/3 innings. He is part of a rotation that continues to have the league’s best ERA (3.47) and a share of the MLB lead in quality starts (41).
Colby Lewis started Saturday against the Mariners, looking to improve to 6-0. Lewis said that while the 2016 rotation has been solid, he wouldn’t declare it the best in his tenure with the Rangers.
3.47 ERA by the Rangers’ rotation, first in the American League
The five starters in the 2011 rotation went the entire season without going on the disabled list. All five won at least 13 games, and the rotation finished with a 3.65 ERA that ranked second in the league.
“In the 2011 season, the rotation was pretty stinking good,” Lewis said. “Everybody threw the ball really well. It helped us with everybody staying healthy. But everyone [this year] is throwing the ball really well.”
Brocail underwent Tommy John surgery twice, so he knows what Darvish might be feeling. The body doesn’t just snap back into pitching shape. Various body parts get sore, even the new ulnar collateral ligament, and Darvish will learn that each time he pitches until he arm and body are all the way back.
“He’s going through everything everybody else goes through,” Brocail said. “He’s going through the growing pains of getting back in shape.”
The process, especially Saturday with Darivsh, made for good material for those who enjoy a good conspiracy theory.
It turns out the conspiracy theorists were right. Darvish has been scratched from his start Monday.
Rangers at Mariners
3:10 p.m. Sunday, FSSW