Yu Darvish still uncertain on return from Tommy John surgery

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish isn't sure how to measure his progress as he closes in on his return from Tommy John surgery.

Speaking through an interpreter a day after facing hitters for the first time since surgery in March 2015, the Texas Rangers right-hander said Thursday that he was "not quite there yet" in most aspects of his pitching. He threw a 30-pitch batting practice session Wednesday.

Asked whether he felt as if he had taken the next step in his recovery, Darvish instead offered a time frame of "maybe a month." He's scheduled for two more batting practice sessions before starting a rehab assignment.

Darvish missed the last two months of the 2014 season with right elbow inflammation before his sprained right ulnar collateral ligament was discovered early in spring training last year.

Darvish also described his yearlong recovery from Tommy John surgery as fun.

And that included having a little side bet with a couple of minor leaguers on Wednesday.

"I told the hitters, if you hit a home run, I'll give you $1,000," Darvish said Thursday, drawing laughter from reporters. "So that's what I was thinking on when I was throwing. That was about it."

But did he have to pay?

"I didn't give them a strike," he said with a smile.

On Thursday, Darvish reported no problems but said cooler temperatures have prevented him from getting completely loose.

The Rangers have targeted May or June for the return of Darvish, who said he wasn't sure where his velocity was during the live session.

"It's been a long time," Darvish said. "We didn't have guns on the field or anything like that. So it's hard for me to say how hard I'm throwing right now."

Manager Jeff Banister said it's a little early for him to start thinking about when Darvish will be back on the mound in a major league game. Darvish's last appearance was Aug. 9, 2014.

"He's not out of mind. He's out of sight in the sense that he's not throwing right in front of me," Banister said. "I'm most excited that he feels good. He's still in the rehab mode for me. I look forward to getting him back into the rotation for him, for our fans, for his teammates. There's still a lot of obstacles to get across."

The last time Darvish pitched in a game was in the Cactus League on March 5, 2015, when he experienced tightness in his right elbow. He had surgery 12 days later and missed all of last season. He missed most of the final two months of the 2014 season because of right elbow inflammation.

But he still described the past 13 months as fun.

"The way I look at it, I don't see it as a challenge," Darvish said. "I really more enjoyed it, having the rehab and all that process. It was more fun than a challenge."

The "fun" is almost over.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.