All Jake Diekman wanted to do with his first pitch off a mound since last season was throw a strike.
Mission accomplished, as the left-hander found the catcher’s mitt Thursday afternoon. But the bigger mission was that Diekman pitched at all six weeks and one day after his third and final surgery this year for ulcerative colitis.
He felt no discomfort, tried to throw as hard as his arm would let him, and was left with no shortage of confidence afterward.
“I feel I can throw in a game right now,” Diekman said. “I feel I could at least spot it up. A lot of things I have to fine tune, but today I felt great. Mentally I feel great in every way. Threw off the mound today, which is amazing. Six weeks and a day ago I had surgery.”
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Manager Jeff Banister, both pitching coaches and three relievers were among the crowd in the bullpen watching and reveling in Diekman’s return. He cursed himself a few times, he said, including calling himself “trash” after his first slider.
“There was a lot of humor,” said right-hander Keone Kela, who was activated from the disabled list Thursday.
Diekman is scheduled to throw again Monday but would like to push that up to Sunday. He said that he has a date in mind for his return that the club knows but that he doesn’t want to make public.
The Rangers could use a quality left-hander, which Diekman has been for much of time he has been with the club. Alex Claudio is the only lefty in the bullpen after the Rangers sent down Dario Alvarez before the All-Star break.
“Physically and mentally I believe I can get anyone out right now,” Diekman said. “I wasn’t trying to throw that thing 50-60 percent. I was trying to air that out. ... Doctor said I could go full out. I’m pretty sure I hit 200 mph.”