. Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is likely to miss the 2015 season with a torn ligament in his right elbow.
An MRI scan detected the injury Friday afternoon. Darvish felt tightness in his right throwing arm during a 12-pitch appearance in Thursday’s game, his first of the spring.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s not the news we wanted,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Saturday morning.
Darvish will be examined Tuesday in New York by Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek, an orthopedic specialist.
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Daniels laid out three choices facing Darvish: Pitch through it, rest and rehab, or Tommy John surgery.
The first seems highly unlikely, Daniels admitted. Resting would require Darvish to wait at least six weeks before throwing again and at least four months before being ready to pitch in a game. Even then there would be no guarantees that his arm would be fully recovered in that span.
The third option, Tommy John surgery (elbow ligament reconstruction), seems the most likely.
“I will be disappointed if I have to miss this season, but I want to look at all the options, including getting a second opinion, before I make a final decision,” Darvish said in a statement released by the Rangers.
The Rangers shut Darvish down for the final seven weeks of last season because of inflammation in his throwing arm. It was a fitting end to one of the most injury-ravaged seasons for a team in major league history. The Rangers used 64 players last season, the most in MLB history, and had players spend a combined 2,281 days on the disabled list.
At the time, Darvish’s injury wasn’t thought to be a serious. It was couched then that Darvish was shut down for precautionary reasons. But recently Darvish admitted that secondary examinations showed the inflammation was something more severe. Friday’s MRI showed a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
“Any time you have an injury, there’s a risk of a recurrence down the line,” Daniels said. “What we’re seeing is an extension, effectively, of what he dealt with last summer. At a significantly more severe level.”
Darvish and the club did not seem too concerned Thursday or Friday. Darvish claimed to be feeling good.
Daniels’ first reaction to the news was feeling “hurt for the guy because he’s worked so hard to come back. He’s looked tremendous.”
Darvish did not receive a second opinion in August when Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister diagnosed inflammation, as best as Daniels could recall. Another MRI around Thanksgiving, Daniels said, showed no issues with the elbow.
“Last year, the fibers of the ligament weren’t torn,” he said. “They were intact but with inflammation.”
Surgery could have been an option then, Daniels said, if Darvish had not recovered so well last fall, which resulted in a clear MRI in November.
“Had he not recovered so well [surgery] would’ve been discussed, but he was totally asymptomatic,” Daniels said. “The fibers are damaged this time around.”
The injury, Daniels suspected, happened gradually. There was no traumatic event in Darvish’s arm that caused the initial tightness Thursday. But the injuries appear to be related, Daniels said, with the same spot in the arm.
“It’s not something the doctor can [make an] A to B direct correlation,” he said.
Daniels and manager Jeff Banister said they won’t let the prospect of losing Darvish for the season alter their outlook on 2015.
“You can hang your head and dwell on it. Or you can do everything you can to get him the right care and get him back where he needs to be and get the other 25 guys ready to roll,” Daniels said. “That’s the response and attitude we’re going to take.”
But Darvish’s absence leaves another glaring hole in the Rangers’ rotation. Entering spring camp, the only question was which pitcher would earn the fifth starting spot.
Now, there are two spots to fill, Nos. 4-5 with the other three — Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis — most likely to move up to Nos. 1-2-3.
Left-hander Ross Detwiler, who allowed a run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings Saturday in his first spring start, appears to have a lock on the fourth spot. That leaves a collection of young prospects and journeymen to vie for the fifth.
“It’s an opportunity for one or multiple guys in our camp to step up,” Daniels said. “That’s how we’re going to look at it. I’m not ruling out expanding that search beyond this camp but that’s not our focus right now.”
Banister told his players and coaches and then later directed the same sentiment to stunned Rangers fans — to feel what they need to feel and then turn their focus toward the future.
“We can either crumble, give in, which I can promise you is not in my DNA, or we can galvanize, get stronger,” Banister said. “Somebody on that pitching staff is going to have a career year this year. Somebody.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Filling the void
The Rangers were already looking for a fifth starter for their rotation, a spot left-hander Ross Detwiler was striving for. Now, they need another pitcher to step up and fill the role. A look at the candidates:
LHP Ross Detwiler
RHP Nick Tepesch
RHP Nick Martinez
RHP Anthony Ranaudo
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
RHP Lisalverto Bonilla