Rangers shot at AL West title rests on Darvish return

Thu Mar 31, 2016 3:34pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - The Texas Rangers made a surprise run to the AL West Division title last season but their 2016 title hopes may rest on the ability of ace starter Yu Darvish to bounce back from elbow surgery.

Darvish, who dazzled the Major League Baseball world right from his arrival from Japan in 2012 and was a Cy Young runner-up in 2013, is being brought along patiently from Tommy John surgery that scuttled his 2015 campaign.

The club is targeting a mid-May return to MLB action and Darvish, who has said he believes he is already capable of retiring major league batters, is taking the process in stride.

"I don't look too far ahead," Darvish told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "You can either pick being positive or being negative. Both are free. I think being positive is better, so that's what I pick every day."

The Rangers are positive they would have a premier one-two at the top of their rotation once they get Darvish back to form to join left-hander Cole Hamels, who they acquired last year from Philadelphia to help their playoff push.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister told reporters he can see Darvish bonding with the team as he gets himself ready and the Japanese pitcher has had his family around him this spring to help ease his transition back to baseball life.

“The closer and closer you get back to play, you start integrating yourself back toward the center,” Banister said. “You feel that, and I see him in everything we do, drawing himself closer and closer to this team.”

Darvish recently threw his longest bullpen session — 35 pitches — and will continue to add pitches before getting to face hitters once he reaches 55 pitches.   Continued...

Feb 24, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) warms up during spring training camp at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports