Texas Rangers

Darvish looking to refine pitches, build strength before Rangers return

Yu Darvish breaks down his third rehab start

Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish liked the adjustment he made between the first and second innings Thursday in his third rehab start (video by Jeff Wilson).
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Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish liked the adjustment he made between the first and second innings Thursday in his third rehab start (video by Jeff Wilson).

Yu Darvish has entered into the fine-tuning stages of his medical rehabilitation assignment, which continued Thursday night with Triple A Round Rock with a heavy load of off-speed pitches.

All that’s left for the right-hander to accomplish before he makes his debut for the Texas Rangers later this month, perhaps May 27 vs. Pittsburgh, is to build arm strength and to refine his breaking pitches and changeup.

That was his assessment after tossing four innings and 54 pitches at Dell Diamond against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple A team, Oklahoma City. Darvish allowed two runs (one earned) and one hit, walking two, striking out four and allowing a homer to start the fourth.

He likely has two more rehab starts remaining. Darvish seems to think that’s all he will need before coming off the disabled list following Tommy John surgery in March 2015.

I threw maybe too many fastballs last time, so I wanted to try other pitches. I threw good curveballs tonight. The cutters, I had some good ones as well. Overall it was pretty good.

Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish

“I threw maybe too many fastballs last time, so I wanted to try other pitches,” Darvish said. “I threw good curveballs tonight. The cutters, I had some good ones as well. Overall it was pretty good.”

Within his four innings was a significant adjustment after a messy first inning. Darvish walked the first two batters before getting a flyout and a pickoff. An unearned run scored, though, as Jared Hoying dropped a shallow fly ball in center field for an error.

Watch Rangers right-hander start to get loose Thursday before his third rehab start (video by Jeff Wilson).

The 18-pitch inning was Darvish’s most labor-intensive of the game.

He would retire the next seven batters, including two perfect innings in the second and third on 20 pitches. He struck out the side in the second, including two who were caught looking at his slow curveball.

The difference between the first and second innings was intensity.

“In the first inning, I was trying to go nice and easy and not put too much effort into my mechanics, but maybe I was going too easy,” Darvish said. “So, I tried to throw as hard as I could to get back in balance, and from the second inning I think everything came together.”

The third inning came and went on only seven pitches, but Corey Brown opened the fourth with a homer that just cleared the wall in right field. Darvish threw 16 pitches in the inning to finish six shy of his 60-pitch limit, and he declined the option to throw a few more in the bullpen.

His work was done, but his work isn’t done. He is likely to make two more starts in the minors, Tuesday with Double A Frisco at Midland and May 22 at Frisco, though his schedule is subject to change.

The Rangers would like for him to work six innings and throw 90 pitches before letting him make his first big-league start since Aug. 9, 2014. The Rangers will expect him to throw five innings or 75 pitches his next time out.

“I feel pretty good about my elbow. The stamina feels like it’s getting there,” Darvish said. “I’d like to work on my off-speed pitches, just refine them, and then go from there. I think the most important thing for me is building up the pitch count. Throwing more innings is going to bring more confidence.”

Briefly

▪ The Rangers traded Anthony Ranaudo, who was optioned to Triple A on Wednesday, to the Chicago White Sox for fellow right-hander Matt Ball, who will report to Low A Hickory. Ranaudo walked five White Sox hitters in the fourth inning Tuesday.

▪ Round Rock third baseman Joey Gallo, the Rangers’ top prospect who is out with a left groin strain, expects to go to extended spring training in Arizona on Saturday and be activated from the Triple A disabled list next weekend.

▪ Triple A shortstop Jurickson Profar said that he is close to being ready for the major leagues, but conceded that he might have to be traded to another organization for his career to take off. He is blocked on the Rangers’ roster by Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor.

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