SURPRISE, ARIZONA – Yu Darvish was free and easy when throwing off a full mound for the first time since elbow surgery last spring.
While not very talkative afterward, the ace said what mattered most to the Texas Rangers: he’s pitching without any pain.
“Good, very good,” Darvish said through his interpreter after the scheduled 15-pitch session Monday. “No pain, no problem at all.”
Darvish threw off a half-mound three times in five days last week, working up to 25 pitches. The next step will be throwing more pitches off the full mound.
The last time Darvish had thrown off a full mound was one inning in a Cactus League game last March 5, when he experienced tightness in his right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery 12 days later and missed all of last season. He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Aug. 9, 2014.
“The view hasn’t changed much,” Darvish said. “I feel like I’m able to throw nice and easy, and throw the ball well.”
Robinson Chirinos, the Rangers primary catcher last season, caught Darvish’s session. He squatted down primarily over the top of the plate, and not in the normal spot a few feet further back.
After throwing his final pitch, Darvish conferred briefly with Chirinos and new pitching coach Doug Brocail. Then with a crowd of media and fans following him, Darvish went to another field to do conditioning work before going inside for further workouts.
Since he hasn’t pitched in a major league game since late in 2014, and the Rangers don’t expect him back in their rotation before mid-May or June, it could be 21 months or more between Darvish starts.
Darvish missed the end of the 2014 season because of right elbow inflammation, but was full strength when he got to Arizona last spring before experiencing tightness and eventually having surgery.
The 29-year-old Darvish was 39-25 with a 3.27 ERA and 680 strikeouts in 83 starts for Texas from 2012-14, after the previous seven seasons in Japan. He was an All-Star in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers.
Now he is working through the steps to get back in a big league game, and was asked if it was gratifying seeing some progress.
“Of course, that I’m feeling painless right now,” he said. “My hope is to continue.”
Desmond deal done
Surprise Arizona AP
Ian Desmond started his transition from one-time All-Star shortstop to everyday left fielder with the Texas Rangers on Monday, when he signed his $8 million, one-year contract and took part in his first workout with the AL West champions.
Desmond said it’s a new chapter he’s ready to embrace.
Desmond has played shortstop throughout his seven major league seasons, all with the Washington Nationals. The 30-year-old Desmond was an All-Star in 2012 but has started only one of his 927 career games in the outfield.
“As far as swallowing my pride and moving to the outfield, that’s not going to be a problem,” Desmond said. “Learning the position, I’m obviously a little bit behind, about 7-10 days and in some cases years and years and years, because it’s been a long time since I’ve done this. But I’m going to work as hard as I can.”
Josh Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP and a five-time All-Star, will start the season on the disabled list for the Rangers. He is expected to miss at least the first month because of lingering problems with his left knee that was operated on twice last year.
The fact that Desmond hasn’t appeared in the outfield in a game since 2010, and that was for only one-third of an inning, posed no concerns to the Rangers in getting the deal done.
General manager Jon Daniels, who spoke to Desmond several times before the deal was complete, said a review of reports on Desmond included many scouts saying in the past that they bet he could play center field. Desmond’s willingness to play left field was a key factor in the Rangers signing him.
“It’s a really natural fit for us as far as the kind of player we look for, elite athlete, tremendous makeup, and whoever you ask, it’s universal, this guy’s a big-time competitor, plays hard, runs hard, pushes other players,” Daniels said. “It was something that presented itself late in the process that we couldn’t pass up. This is a winning piece, a winning player, on a team that expects to win. To add that kind of piece here late in the process, it is a really great fit for us.”