This is a critical week for the Rangers in terms of where they stand with ace Yu Darvish. At some point he should throw a bullpen session.
It doesn’t have to occur today or tomorrow, but he needs to throw sometime. Darvish wasn’t expected to make the two-game road trip to Miami, where the Texas Rangers face the Miami Marlins. If anything, Darvish isn’t needed now.
He's needed next week and there’s an expectation Darvish will pitch at Seattle on Aug. 25, the day he comes off the 15-day disabled list due to inflammation with his right elbow.
This is mild inflammation and the Rangers don’t want to push Darvish into something that would hurt him in the long term. Darvish needs to show the club he can pitch through some discomfort, especially if games are meaningful.
Now you could say the Rangers aren’t involved in meaningful games. But people inside the organization would disagree, because there is Adrian Beltre playing hard every day minus a day off in a lost season.
You see Elvis Andrus walking around the clubhouse with ice on his back. Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo are playing through ankle sprains when it’s clear they need rest. Rios is even getting treatment for a minor hand injury, too.
“We’re in a race to win ballgames,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said last week. “I expect Darvish to pitch on the 25th. Why wouldn’t he? So he’s got inflammation. I’ve got inflammation.”
Washington wasn’t ripping Darvish. He was just making a note of the different degrees of inflammation. Mild is something you can recover from.
At this time of year, several players, pitchers included, are dealing with some physical issue; it's the nature of baseball. Darvish is encountering that now. If the discomfort remains then, OK, he stays on the DL -- and maybe he continues his time on the DL.
The club, however, and maybe some players, wish he would have gone about it a different way.
Darvish could have just missed a start and maybe tried to return this week in Miami. If he still has problems, then fine, place him on the DL. No big deal.
But Darvish should let the club have more control over what's needed for him. He needs to have better communication with the front office and the manager to make things smoother. He just decided it was best to head to the DL, and it raised questions regarding his commitment to the club.
As he spoke with reporters late last week, Darvish said he wasn’t sure if he could pitch in a pennant race with his current discomfort. Darvish seemed to be all over the place with his answer about it, because he then said he would and later said he wouldn’t do it if it put him at risk.
Darvish also said he had worse discomfort while pitching in Japan in 2011. Darvish missed a spring training start and started that season on time.
Why couldn't he just avoid the DL now and come back after missing one or maybe two starts and then see how things go?
The focus is on Darvish now more than ever to get through a bullpen session without any problems; if he doesn't then the franchise will accept it and leave him on the DL for at least another week.
It's not like the Rangers are playing for anything right now.
Darvish’s inflammation is mild and should clear up soon. He'll pitch again; maybe not in Seattle, but he'll be out there.
The Rangers don't want to put him at risk because, let's be real, he's all they have as a consistent starter in the rotation, at least until Derek Holland returns from his rehab outings.
So while the Rangers are playing in South Beach, Darvish gets ready for a bullpen session that could continue his season or maybe end it.