Darvish leaves teammates hanging

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Either Yu Darvish is healthy enough to pitch or he's not.

Everything else is poppycock.

"That's a difficult question," Yu said through an interpreter when asked if he would be pitching if the Texas Rangers were in the playoff race.

"I want to pitch. I think I could if I pushed myself."


You think you could pitch if you pushed yourself. C'mon, man. Take the ball and be a beacon in this raggedy season.

Alas, that's not going to happen. In fact, don't expect to see Yu anymore this season after an MRI exam Thursday showed he has mild inflammation in his right elbow.

There's no pain. Repeat: no pain. There is, however, some discomfort. How many major league pitchers taking the ball Thursday night would have similar MRIs?

"I'm not too concerned," Yu said. "I'm just taking a precautionary measure. I'm competitive. I want to go out there and compete, but at the same time, I'm thinking about my long-term situation.

"I don't want to go out there and risk my future. I don't want to aggravate [the elbow]. It's a good decision I'm taking."

General manager Jon Daniels, a smart dude at the helm of a forgettable season, made a huge mistake when he provided the pitcher with a free pass to quit on the season.

The Rangers are 47-73, and the odds are rapidly increasing they will become the third team in MLB history to plummet from 90 wins in one season to 100 losses the next. The Philadelphia Athletics did it in 1914 and 1915 and the Florida Marlins did it in 1997 and 1998.

So what's the point at which Yu would be healthy enough to pitch? If the Rangers were a game back in the wild-card or AL West races? Five games? Ten games?

See the problem?

Pitchers are valuable commodities, and few hold more value than the 27-year old Yu, who's making $10 million this season.

If he's hurt, then by all means, shut him down. But if he can pitch, then he needs to be on the mound. Every trainer will tell you there's a difference between pain and injury.

The Rangers, who have used a club-record 34 pitchers this season, have 14 players on the disabled list. One more isn't going to make a difference.

As the leader of an organization, Daniels can't essentially tell the rest of his players that some guys are so valuable the club can't take a chance on them getting hurt while others bust their butt every night with a variety of aches and pains.

They especially don't want to hear it about a guy who's performing once every five days.

At least in preseason NFL games, the Cowboys sit virtually all of their marquee players. And if they ever get in a position to rest their players on the last weekend of the season again because they have a playoff spot clinched, they'll do the same with their best players.

You think Adrian Beltre's hamstrings aren't sore and couldn't use a couple of weeks off? What about Elvis Andrus' elbow? What about Shin-Soo Choo's ankle?

The size of the paycheck and jersey sales tells us the relative importance of one player over another. The GM doesn't have to do it, too.

Perhaps Daniels has been scarred this season by injuries to Prince Fielder (neck), Matt Harrison (back) and Jurickson Profar (shoulder), or he's being overly cautious because his psyche can't take one more hit this season.

It's no fun to play in the stifling Texas heat on a team poised to lose 100 games, but that's what leaders do.

That's what aces should do.

Yu is one of baseball's best pitchers, a beast when all of his pitches are working. He's 10-7 this season with a 3.06 ERA, but the Houston Astros kicked his butt last week and notched five earned runs in four innings.

Yu is the only rotation member not considered a No. 5-caliber starter, if that. Without him, every night is a crapshoot. There's no one the Rangers can count on to end a losing streak.

The MLB season is a grind of 162 games in 180 days that tests the mental and physical resolve of every player. This is the time of year when players prove to their teammates how much the game means to them.

More than that, it's about each player's commitment to the team. It's about the commitment to the guy on the bench next to you. It's about 25 guys pulling in the same direction in a quest to win games.

It's the reason every time you ask an athlete what he's going to miss most about the game, he'll tell you the camaraderie of the locker room.

See, it doesn't matter if the Rangers are more than 20 games out of first place. Yu should be playing for the other 24 guys.

Instead, he's left them hanging.