Yu Darvish is going to have Tommy John surgery early next week.
He knows it. The Texas Rangers know it. Two well-respected orthopedists know it.
A third is going to take a look, and he will soon know it, too.
The surgery isn’t official, but it might as well be. That was the news delivered Wednesday by general manager Jon Daniels.
“He understands completely,” Daniels said. “We’re on the same page that if surgery is the decision, it’s better sooner than later.”
The sooner Darvish gets his torn ulnar collateral ligament fixed, the fewer starts he will miss next season. Dr. James Andrews will take a look at the imagery that led team physician Dr. Keith Meister on Friday and Dr. David Altchek on Tuesday in New York to recommend surgery.
Andrews’ opinion, at the behest of Darvish, will come no later than Friday. Surgery will follow Monday or Tuesday.
As for this season, the Rangers’ rotation once again is lacking a starter. Just about the only people who see them as a playoff contender, once again, are those on their own payroll.
For as much as the Rangers talk up the young pitchers in camp who are vying to be the No. 5 starter, there’s no one in the system who can replace Darvish.
“Our plan is to fill from within,” Daniels said.
There’s one top-tier pitcher available from outside the organization, and Philadelphia is motivated to show left-hander Cole Hamels the door. The Rangers, though, aren’t inclined to surrender the kind of prospects the Phillies want and aren’t inclined to pay Hamels the $96 million he’s guaranteed over the next four seasons.
So the Rangers are left to fill the hole in their rotation from among Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, Lisalverto Bonilla and Ross Ohlendorf. Larry, Moe and Curly are also possibilities to slide in behind Yovani Gallardo, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Ross Detwiler.
But Daniels said that the decision not to pursue Hamels as the missing piece for a playoff run isn’t an indication that the Rangers are re-evaluating their plans for 2015, as they did after the failed body parts mounted in 2014.
Darvish is one player, Daniels said, albeit one of the game’s best pitchers. The decision last year to build for 2015 was made after several key players kept landing on the disabled list with injuries that would keep them there indefinitely.
“What was unique about last year was not just losing a star player, but the frequency and severity of the injuries,” Daniels said. “It wasn’t one guy. It was 17 of them.
“If, in fact, Yu has surgery and misses the year, there’s no other way to spin that other than it’s a tough deal for us. That being said, it’s one guy. It’s not 17.
“Good teams and good organizations have had similar news at similar times before and found a way. That’s got to be our mentality. We’ve got to find a way.”
The smart money is on one of the Nicks to be a heavy contributor in Darvish’s absence. Tepesch and Martinez have shown flashes at some point in the majors.
Gonzalez, the Rangers’ first overall pick in 2013, will be a better big leaguer than either one of them, and the three scoreless innings he threw Monday left a favorable impression.
He will stay in the mix, and might be pushed as the Rangers consider all possibilities, but the fact that he hasn’t pitched above Double A will work against him.
Then again, there are three more weeks for a pitcher or two to stub their toes, figuratively and literally, and fall out of the scramble to fill the Darvish void.
It’s the kind of void that can ruin a season before it starts, though the Rangers aren’t of that mindset yet.
“We don’t feel that way,” Daniels said. “Last year we scrambled at the end. I don’t feel like we’re even remotely close to that. It’s one guy. Not five and not 10.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760