SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is close to getting back on a full-size mound for the first time in nearly a year after elbow surgery.
That could come in his next bullpen session after throwing off a half-mound Friday for the third time in five days.
''Another really good day,'' new pitching coach Doug Brocail said after Darvish's 25-pitch session.
While walking through the clubhouse after that, Darvish said he felt good.
If Darvish recovers with no issues, his next bullpen will be 15 pitches off a regulation mound. That could be Sunday or Monday, depending on how he feels.
Darvish hasn't thrown off a full mound since working one inning in a Cactus League game last March 5. He left that game with tightness in his right elbow, and 12 days later had Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of last season.
His last major league game was Aug. 9, 2014. His missed the end of that season because of right elbow inflammation, but was full strength when he got to Arizona last spring before experiencing tightness.
The Rangers have said they don't expect Darvish back in their rotation before mid-May or early June.
''The one thing for me is I want to make sure that he understands that this is about him getting stronger, not worrying about trying to get a ball to the location,'' Brocail said. ''This is about him getting stronger and letting the ball go freely instead of having to worry if the ball's down and trying to place the ball.''
Darvish was an All-Star in his first three seasons with the Rangers before missing all of last year. The 29-year-old Darvish was 39-25 with a 3.27 ERA and 680 strikeouts in 83 starts for Texas from 2012-14, after the previous seven seasons in Japan.
Even before reporting to spring training, Darvish was throwing six days a week. He was doing long toss and sessions of 20-25 pitches off flat ground.
''This isn't about him searching for a feel,'' Brocail said. ''If you watch the delivery, the delivery is perfect, it's crisp, it's repeated time after time after time.''