Darvish ready for next step: facing hitters

Rangers righty aiming to pitch batting practice Wednesday

Darvish ready for next step: facing hitters

ANAHEIM -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is ready to face some hitters. Darvish threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday in Arlington and all went well, pitching coach Doug Brocail said before Saturday's 4-1 win over the Angels.

Brocail said Darvish's next step will be live batting practice on Wednesday at a place to be determined. The format will likely be three 15-pitch segments.

"Now it's time to turn him loose," Brocail said. "He'll throw some live batting practice and then get in games."

Brocail said the tentative plan is for three live batting practice sessions and then a medical rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues beginning the final week of April. Darvish would likely make six starts on rehab assignment before rejoining the Rangers in the final week of May if all goes well.

"We'll see ... that's subject to change even the next round," Brocail said. "If all goes well, obviously we'll stay on schedule."

Brocail said Darvish will likely begin his rehab assignment throwing at least three innings, since he is already built up to 45-50 pitches in his bullpen sessions.

"I'd like to start at three innings and build up from there," Brocail said. "We'll wait and see how he feels, but we don't want to go backward. We want to keep him moving forward. He is out of the stable. We've got to let him run a little bit."

Darvish, who underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on March 17, 2015, would build up to six innings before he is ready to return to the Rangers. Even after he returns, the Rangers will watch his pitch counts carefully. That's one reason Brocail is emphasizing to Darvish to throw more fastballs in the strike zone.

The idea is that a well-placed fastball leads to quicker outs, lower pitch counts and getting deeper into games. Darvish averaged 16.4 pitches per inning in 2012-14. The lowest in the Majors over those three years was Hisashi Iwakuma with 14.4 pitches per inning.

"I'm not asking [Darvish] to throw 25 percent more fastballs," Brocail said. "I'm asking him to trust it more to get more quick outs. Just more strikes so he doesn't have to go deep in counts."

Rangers beat

• The Rangers are still being cautious with Triple-A shortstop Jurickson Profar after he missed two seasons because of shoulder problems. He did not start for Round Rock on Friday night in Des Moines because the temperature was 45 degrees and the wind gusts were up to 20 miles per hour.

• The Rangers did let reliever Matt Bush throw back-to-back games for Double-A Frisco to start the season on Thursday and Friday. It was the first time he pitched in a Minor League game since 2011.

"Matt had a quick first outing with nine pitches," farm director Mike Daly said. "He was very well-rested obviously since it was Opening Day. We saw an opportunity to use him again if the right situation presented itself. Matt felt good and he a nice job last night in 16 pitches to get through his inning."

• Third base coach Tony Beasley, who is undergoing treatment for rectal cancer, is with the Rangers this weekend in Anaheim and will return to Arizona on Sunday for his final chemotherapy treatment. Beasley said he is continuing to feel well and is optimistic for full recovery.

A.J. Griffin's win on Friday left him with a career record of 22-11. The .667 winning percentage is tied for the 13th highest in Major League history among starters with at least 48 starts.

• Manager Jeff Banister said he is planning to start third baseman Adrian Beltre on Sunday against Jered Weaver. A day off is an option because it will be the seventh straight game for the Rangers, it will be a day game after a night game situation and Beltre does not have good career numbers (.226 average) against Weaver. Banister said he does have ongoing conversations with Beltre about what would be a good day to take off.

"We have those discussions, how he feels and where his body is at," Banister said. "We'll continue to have those talks and make those decisions."

• Pitcher Burke Badenhop, signed to a Minor League contract, was activated on Saturday at Round Rock.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.