That didn’t take long.
Rangers ace Yu Darvish was pulled after just 12 pitches into his first spring training start Thursday because of tightness in his right triceps.
If Rangers fans are murmuring to themselves, “Here we go again,” it’s understandable.
Thursday’s developments, however, didn’t seem to faze Darvish. He felt the tightness during his pregame bullpen session but didn’t think it serious enough to scratch his first start of the spring.
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“I just had some [normal] tightness in my triceps, so I was throwing without putting too much effort, I was only focusing on my command,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “It started to feel like it was tightening up [in the bullpen], so from then on I started to throw without too much might. It wasn’t that bad, so I just took the mound as normal.”
Darvish, 28, had his season cut short in August with what the club at first called “mild inflammation” in his right throwing elbow. Darvish at the time even claimed that he’d be available if the Rangers were not out of playoff contention. But earlier this week Darvish expounded on the seriousness of the injury, saying in English that secondary examinations proved that his inflammation was something more serious.
Darvish’s velocity was down Thursday, topping out at 92 mph and averaging 89 mph. The tightness, he said, required him to work on his control and location instead of velocity.
The Rangers said it’s not considered serious. Darvish came out before getting close to his 35-pitch count (or two innings of work) as a precautionary measure, the club said. He’ll be evaluated by team physician Dr. Keith Meister on Friday morning. Darvish said he hadn’t felt tightness in that area of his arm before.
The tightness did not worsen during his lone inning, he said. He allowed a leadoff single and then got a groundout, flyout and strikeout with his only changeup of the outing. He threw one slider and the other 10 pitches were fastballs.
Although Darvish appeared genuinely relaxed and unmoved by the turn of events, it can’t help but make Rangers management and the coaching staff twitch and squirm ever so slightly at the thought of the injury being something more severe; especially considering the current state of the four-man rotation at the moment.
Derek Holland is experiencing soreness in his throwing shoulder and Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo combined to allow 10 runs on 11 hits in less than three innings in Wednesday’s spring opener. None of the pitchers are showing concern. Rangers manager Jeff Banister was also undeterred by the events after Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Royals.
“I’m not nervous. Any time you have soreness you have to evaluate whether it’s normal soreness or if it’s more than that. I’m not going to put it in any one category,” Banister said. “The health of those guys are our priority. It’s early in camp. We’ll treat the situation as it is right now. It’s precautionary and we’ll know more information tomorrow. We don’t want to risk anything at this point.”
For Darvish, at least, it was a successful outing. In fact, he turned the arm tightness into a pitching lesson for himself.
“I was able to control the ball overall today, it made me really realize that command is important and pitching is not just about velocity,” he said.
Darvish appeared upbeat and wasn’t discouraged by the short stint. He even jokingly asked members of the media to ask him about pitching instead of his arm issue.
“You guys were watching today’s game, right? Please ask something about the pitching. It was good, right? How was it?” he asked through an interpreter.
He dismissed the notion that the tightness could push back his next start.
“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” he said. “I’m not disappointed in anything. If I was disappointed I couldn’t make a joke.”
Another arm injury for Yu Darvish, however, would be the cruelest joke of all.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
The idea of starter Yu Darvish having soreness in his pitching arm sends shivers through the Rangers and their fans. Since joining the team in 2012, Darvish has been a three-time All-Star and the workhorse of the staff: