Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday morning, the year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery. Darvish was not available for comment besides telling the Japanese press that he has enjoyed the past year.
Manager Jeff Banister, who watched Darvish throw Thursday, was impressed with the spin he’s already putting on the baseball. It was Darvish’s fifth session throwing the full distance from a regular mound.
“Those guys that go through the Tommy John procedure, that’s something that doesn’t come back to them as quick and to see him out there spinning the baseball is surprising. Spinning it to the rate that he’s at,” Banister said. “I think he has progressed at the rate a guy of the caliber of Yu Darivsh would progress.”
Darvish, Banister said, could be itching to face a live hitter for the first time. Darvish was nitpicking his lack of command to Banister after the session.
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“He was kind of locked in on the consistency or inconsistency of the command he’s grown accustomed to. But that’s also going to be a process too,” Banister said. “I’m sure a competitive guy like him at some point just throwing off the bullpen mound is going to get to the point where he wants to see a hitter and he has to be able to stay patient until that time.”
Banister was unsure whether Darvish will face live hitters before camp breaks March 30.
“He’s still on the medical side and hasn’t been turned over completely to us. And that’s necessary,” he said. “This guy’s a supremely driven human being that likes perfection. That may be his competing style right now because he can’t go out and compete against a hitter. He may be playing that game within himself to be the marksman that he was previous.”
Banister believes Darvish will be an ace-level pitcher when he returns in late May or early June.
“He doesn’t just want to be just OK. He wants to be as good a pitcher there is. I’ll take that kind of competitive edge,” he said. “His dedication to getting himself back and what are eyes are telling us where he’s at at this point. This guy is way beyond the bell curve of talent. At full strength, when he’s ready to go, I got to believe this is going to be a pretty good pitcher.”
Second baseman Rougned Odor went 2 for 4 with a double in two separate minor league games Thursday afternoon. He was lifted for a pinch runner both times. Odor has been out for more than a week with a tight right oblique muscle. Odor says he feels 100 percent and expects to be back in the regular lineup soon. He also flew out to left field and lined out to center field.
“I feel pretty good right now,” he said. “I need a couple more at-bats but I’m pretty good.”
Shin-Soo Choo has minor back stiffness and won’t be in the lineup for a couple of days. He hit in the cage Thursday afternoon and said it’s nothing serious. “If it happened in the season it’d be no problem to play,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I know my body more than anybody.”
Choo said it stiffened up on him Sunday morning. He expects to be available for Saturday’s game.
Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST