Right-hander Yu Darvish will make the first of likely two rehab starts Monday for Double A Frisco, and he could be in line to return from the disabled list during the Texas Rangers’ first series after the All-Star break against the Chicago Cubs.
Darvish, out since June 8 with right shoulder tightness, threw a simulated game Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and threw a 29-pitch bullpen session Friday at Target Field ahead of the opener of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
“Yu looked really good,” pitching coach Doug Brocail said.
Darvish will leave the team this weekend to travel to Springdale, Ark., where Frisco will play Northwest Arkansas. He is scheduled to throw three innings or 45 pitches.
The Rangers remain committed to keeping Darvish out until after the July 12 All-Star Game. The Rangers open the second half with three games at Wrigley Field on July 15-17 to kick off a nine-game road trip.
Reliever Keone Kela (elbow) could also return during that series. The right-hander is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Triple A Round Rock at New Orleans before joining Frisco as the RoughRiders return home Wednesday.
“We want them for the long haul,” manager Jeff Banister said. “Setbacks do happen, but we don’t want to create them.”
Tolleson helps Kershaw
Shawn Tolleson isn’t a doctor, though he played one earlier this week in a phone call with his old Dallas summer-league and Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers’ left-hander, the game’s best pitcher, was diagnosed with a slight herniation of the L5-S1 disc is his lower back, the same injury that Tolleson and Matt Harrison had in 2013 that required surgery.
Kershaw is trying to avoid surgery with rest and an epidural injection into the area, and the three-team National League Cy Young winner spoke with the Rangers’ reliever for some advice.
“It sounds like it’s not too bad,” Tolleson said. “His pain is very localized to his back, and they’re hoping the shot can kind of calm that down and some time off, and he can come back.”
Tolleson had numbness and other unusual sensations that radiated down one of his legs as the herniation pinched some nerves. Kershaw said to Tolleson that he isn’t experiencing any of that.
Tolleson’s advice was for Kershaw to keep on his core work and to sleep with a pillow between his legs.
“He hates being hurt and on the DL more than anybody,” Tolleson said. “I told him that I was going to be praying for him. I just asked if he needed some help finding a comfortable position to sleep in or finding a comfortable position to sit in on the plane.”
Round 2 for Gonzalez
Chi Chi Gonzalez admitted to feeling some nerves Monday night at Yankee Stadium ahead of his 2016 debut, in which he allowed five runs on 10 singles in five innings.
“He didn’t show it, not with any of his mannerisms,” Banister said. “Maybe in some of his pitches.”
Perhaps some nerves were at the root of what affected Gonzalez’s pitching, as he discovered on video that he was trying to create action on his pitches rather than using physics to do the work.
That was his focus Wednesday during his between-starts bullpen session and with his flat-ground work leading up to his start Saturday against the Minnesota Twins. The key is finding more depth on his pitches.
“I watched video after the start, and I was getting around a lot of stuff,” Gonzalez said. “I worked on using the mound up and down, and not so much forcing movement and letting it create itself.”
Gonzalez has one career start at Target Field, a no-decision Aug. 13, 2015, in which he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings.