Darvish missed his scheduled start last Friday with a stiff neck, and although the right-hander played catch on Monday, his readiness for Opening Day is becoming more and more doubtful. In fact, as manager Ron Washington admitted on Sunday, the Rangers are already considering back-up options in case Darvish is unable to go in the club's season opener on March 31.
"We suffered a number of injuries early, but had hoped to put those in our rearview mirror," Rangers assistant GM Thad Levin stated on Sunday. "But you see this all around baseball. We've just got to get off the mat and fight."
After multiple starters have gone down with injuries this spring, Darvish is yet another player for which the Rangers might have to begin the season without. Expected rotation-mate Derek Holland has begun throwing again following micro-fracture surgery in January, but he isn't expected to return until at least June. The Rangers have handled relievers Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz carefully this spring as well, with the two pitchers coming off major arm injuries last season.
Monday brought further bad news for Texas on the injury front when the club announced that Jurickson Profar will miss 10-12 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder. Profar's shoulder woes also leave the Rangers' middle infield depth in doubt, as shortstop Elvis Andrus is working through flexor tendinitis in his throwing arm and has had to sit out of spring workouts. The team also announced on Monday that Geovany Soto will miss 10 weeks after tearing the meniscus in his left knee.
Darvish, however, would be the biggest injury blow to the team's roster. The 27-year-old finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2013 after finishing with a 2.83 ERA and 3.4 times as many strikeouts as walks. The Japan native led all of baseball in strikeouts with 277, settling in well in his second season since making the transition to the major leagues.
With Darvish questionable, the Rangers have just Martin Perez, Tommy Hanson, Tanner Scheppers, and Joe Saunders to fill out to rest of their rotation. Minor leaguer Nick Tepesch would likely get an opportunity in Darvish's absence, and Colby Lewis could also make the team despite his poor performances this spring.