The experience was all too familiar to Rangers utility man Ed Lucas, a sinking feeling in the deepest pit of his stomach as the news filtered through the clubhouse.
Lucas was a member of the Marlins a year ago when word spread that Jose Fernandez was headed for Tommy John surgery. One of the most electrifying arms in baseball had been shut down. Surgery to repair the ligaments holding his elbow together would keep him out for the year.
Now, Lucas was hearing that Texas star Yu Darvish could be headed for the same fate.
“I know watching Jose last year, everyone knows what kind of competitor Jose is and it kills you to watch him go through that, sitting on the sidelines while we’re out there battling,” Lucas said. “It’s unfortunate that this is becoming more and more a part of today’s game.”
Darvish, who missed the final seven weeks of last season with elbow inflammation, first felt tightness in his elbow while warming up in the bullpen on Thursday last week. He kept quiet and headed to the mound, throwing 12 pitches in his only inning of the spring training game against Kansas City.
Only afterward did he tell training staff about the problem. Darvish headed for an MRI exam in the Phoenix area on Friday, and it revealed fraying of the ligaments in his elbow.
Darvish was scheduled to get a second opinion from Mets medical director David Altchek in New York yesterday, but Rangers general manager Jon Daniels indicated surgery might be likely.
The options, both of them even less appealing, are to try to pitch through the injury and hope Darvish’s elbow holds together, or rest for six weeks and hope he’s ready to go by the All-Star break.
Either way, it appears the Rangers are going to be without Darvish for a while, if not the season.
“We’ve got a job to do,” Daniels said over the weekend, “and you have to move on. You hear the news out of the other camps, other players getting hurt, and you know, nobody is feeling sorry for them. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, either.”
If anybody deserves a little sympathy, though, it is probably the Rangers.
After setting records for players used during an injury plagued season a year ago, Daniels was hopeful karma would even out. However, with Darvish on the shelf and fellow starter Derek Holland dealing with shoulder soreness, the “here we go again” feeling is very much real.
“We were all enjoying [spring training]. Everybody was on a high note,” Holland said. “Then to hear something like that will take you down real quick. And the thing is how quick can you pick yourself back up and go from there.”
Holland, who hopes to get into a game by next weekend, said the rest of the rotation would have to pick up the slack. However, while the Rangers still have three solid starters with Holland, Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis, there are now two jobs up for grabs.
Top candidates include Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez and Ross Detwiler.
“We’re losing a main guy, one of the aces. It was a sad day,” Gonzalez said. “We’re still talking about it. Every time it’s mentioned, you think back to it.”
Now, Gonzalez is in the awkward position of potentially benefiting from Darvish’s injury.
“I try not to think about it like that,” he said. “Whoever gets that chance to make that start, filling that spot, you hope has a good season. I don’t think like that, somebody’s failure helps me out at all. Losing him, we lose a big part of the team.”
Daniels did not rule out looking outside the Rangers system for rotation help, but he said guys already in the clubhouse would get the first shot at the open jobs. It did not help his cause that right-hander Chris Young, the American League’s comeback player of the year, signed a free agent deal with campus cotenant Kansas City just as news of Darvish’s injury spread.
Young was one of the last veteran starting pitchers on the market.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Lewis said. “You saw how many guys are fighting for the fifth spot that have a lot of experience in the big leagues. It’s opened up the door for a couple of younger guys to be a little bit more relaxed and go out there and perform and pitch.”
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