Darvish close to getting back to Texas rotation

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Rangers ace Yu Darvish could get back in the Texas rotation without making a rehabilitation start after he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

General manager Jon Daniels said before Monday’s season opener that Darvish “appears to be healthy and strong” after consecutive days of throwing over the weekend. Darvish was scheduled to start the opener against Philadelphia until neck stiffness during training camp about two weeks ago.

“Very, very encouraged,” manager Ron Washington said. “The report I got, it was just as good as it was before he got hurt.”

The Rangers put Darvish on the disabled list Sunday while setting their 25-man roster, but the move was retroactive to March 21. He would be eligible to return Saturday.

Daniels said the Rangers haven’t committed to when Darvish will return to the rotation. But the GM also said Darvish wouldn’t necessarily have to pitch in a rehab game before making his season debut.

“I think we’ll probably accomplish a lot of that on the side, extended bullpen so to speak,” Daniels said. “We’re going to sit down and meet before we lay out a plan.”

Darvish last faced hitters March 16 in a spring training game. He threw a 32-pitch bullpen session Sunday, a day after throwing off flat ground. He will throw again Tuesday.

Darvish finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season when he led the majors with 277 strikeouts.

The Rangers are also without left-handers Matt Harrison (back) and Derek Holland (left knee). Harrison could be return before the end of the April. Colby Lewis, who missed all of last season recovering from elbow surgery and then having hip surgery, is making a minor league start Tuesday after a solid spring.

“We are going to get a few of these guys back pretty soon,” Daniels said.

“It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up, and when we’re healthy and we get Colby and Yu back in a week or whatever it is, and get Matt back two weeks after that, I think you’ll look up and be like we’ve got some tough calls to make with other guys who have stepped up, and have stepped up and seized that opportunity. I don’t buy into all the doom and gloom stuff,” he said.

Tanner Scheppers made his first career start for Texas on opening day, and is to be followed by Martin Perez, Robbie Ross and Joe Saunders. None were in the Rangers rotation at the start of last season - Scheppers and Ross were relievers.

The fifth starter is expected to be right-hander Nick Martinez, a right-hander who has never pitched about Double-A and isn’t yet on the 25-man roster. The Rangers have said Martinez is the scheduled starter Saturday night at Tampa Bay.

“Just because Darvish comes off on the fifth doesn’t mean Martinez is going to get kicked out,” Washington said.

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