Posted on March 8, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
One of the biggest keys for the Texas Rangers this season is the top of their rotation, most notably Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, pitching like frontline starters. There’s little concern that Hamels will be at the top of his game in 2017, but heading into spring training there was definitely concern about Darvish after his struggles with injuries last season. However, two starts into spring training, Darvish is happy to report that he is finally pitching pain-free, which is great news for the Rangers.
Darvish, of course, sat out the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was impressive upon returning to the big leagues last May but only made three starts before being forced to the DL with shoulder discomfort. After being on the shelf for a month, Darvish was able to return and pitch the rest of the season. However, he still dealt with lingering discomfort from the surgery and faded a bit down the stretch, including a disappointing start in the ALDS.
But early in spring, Darvish is reporting no ill effects now that he’s nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, giving him peace of mind and giving the Rangers hope that the 30-year old Darvish is ready to return to the form he had early in his big league career.
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“I think I am progressing very well this spring physically,” Darvish explains. “I have been able to build up to this point. In between innings in the games last year, I had some strange feelings in my arm when I started throwing on the mound again. This year, I don’t have that kind of feeling. That’s another positive.”
On Tuesday, Darvish threw his second official start of the spring against the Rockies. Despite surrendering a home run to Trevor Story, Darvish was able to throw 3-plus innings, lasting 59 pitches before being removed. More importantly, he was pain-free for all 59 pitches.
“Overall, it was a pretty good outing,” Darvish said. “I had no pain whatsoever, and when I got behind in the count, I was still able to get my outs.”
“I thought Darvish threw the ball extremely well,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said of Darvish on Tuesday. “He got his first pitch in the strike zone, had an explosive fastball.”
Now that he’s pitching pain-free, Darvish says the next step for him is being more economical with his pitches. He managed to throw a career-low 15.7 pitches per inning last season but feels he can improve even further in that department, something that could help him continue to pitch pain-free.
If Darvish is able to stay healthy and pitch to the best of his ability this season, it’s a potential game-changer for the Rangers. Texas had the best record in the American League last season in spite of a rotation that was average at best.
After the loss of a couple key offensive players over the winter, the Rangers will be more dependent on their rotation in 2017. With rotation reinforcements Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross coming back from injuries this spring, there’s pressure on the top of the rotation to carry the Rangers this year, making Darvish an integral part of the team’s success in 2017. The fact that he’s healthy this spring is a great sign for the Rangers, who figure to face stiff competition if they hope to repeat as AL West champs.