Yu Darvish's road to recovery from Tommy John surgery had some speed bumps, as a return trip to the disabled list with neck and shoulder issues occurred just three starts into his comeback. He didn't get as many as 90 pitches into a start until just before the All-Star break, after which he went on a streak of eight consecutive quality starts. The Rangers were careful with his single-game workloads, allowing Darvish to exceed 100 pitches in just two of his 17 starts, but most compelling was his sudden affinity for low-walk outings. Darvish walked one or zero batters in 11 of those 17 starts, and in the low-walk games he had a K:BB of 90:9 in 69.1 combined innings. Pitch command is typically the last thing to come around for a pitcher coming off major elbow surgery, so the fact that his stuff was intact and that his command was potentially better than pre-Tommy John mean that his skills survived the trip under the knife. He could take off once fully unbridled.
Darvish will be the Opening Day starter against Cleveland. It will be Darvish's first Opening Day start and a well-deserved honor in his fifth season with the Rangers. The 30-year-old righty returned from Tommy John surgery last season to compile a 3.41 ERA and a 132:31 K:BB ratio over 17 starts and could be on track to return to his dominant pre-surgery form. Darvish will form a powerful rotation duo with teammate Cole Hamels, who will likely start the second game of the season.
Darvish threw a simulated contest Thursday, giving up three runs on three hits (including a home run) and two walks, while striking out three in 2.2 innings, Dave Sessions of MLB.com reports. He threw 31 strikes in 51 pitches. The right-hander's line looks ugly, but his outing was mostly to get his stuff right before logging an actual spring game. While the club will continue his progression at a controlled pace, Darvish -- who spun a 3.41 ERA last year with 132 strikeouts in 100.1 frames after returning from Tommy John surgery -- will remain coveted as a fantasy ace.
Darvish is planning to re-incorporate the split-finger fastball into his pitching repertoire, Evan Grant of Dallas Morning News reports. He used the pitch intermittently before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015 and pitching coach Doug Brocail asked him not to incorporate it last season. Darvish had a down year in 2016, posting a career-worst 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 17 starts. The repertoire change may not induce a miracle, but it provides another weapon for the Ranger ace.
Darvish has been announced as the starting pitcher for Game 2 of the Rangers' ALDS series with the Blue Jays, MLB.com's TR Sullivan reports. Darvish will follow Cole Hamels in the Rangers' rotation and take the ball Friday afternoon. Darvish had a couple rough starts in September, but he finished the season on a high note, giving up just one earned run and posting a 21:2 K:BB in 13 innings over his final two starts -- both victories.
Darvish's next start has been moved to Saturday against the A's, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. The Rangers are lining up their postseason rotation while also giving Darvish some extra rest. He lines up behind Cole Hamels, who starts Friday -- a preview of how the Rangers will deploy their top two starters in October. This works out well for Darvish's owners, as he faces a mediocre A's offense at home instead of a talented Astros offense on the road. Derek Holland will start Wednesday in his stead.