Darvish throws off full mound for 1st time since surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Yu Darvish was free and easy when throwing off a full-sized mound for the first time since elbow surgery last spring.

While not very talkative afterward, the ace said what mattered most to the Texas Rangers: he's pitching without any pain.

''Good, very good,'' Darvish said through his interpreter after the scheduled 15-pitch session Monday. ''No pain, no problem at all.''

Darvish threw off a half-mound three times in five days last week, working up to 25 pitches. The next step will be throwing more pitches off the full mound.

The last time Darvish had thrown off a full mound was one inning in a Cactus League game last March 5, when he experienced tightness in his right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery 12 days later and missed all of last season. He hasn't pitched in a major league game since Aug. 9, 2014.

''The view hasn't changed much,'' Darvish said. ''I feel like I'm able to throw nice and easy, and throw the ball well.''

Robinson Chirinos, the Rangers primary catcher last season, caught Darvish's session. He squatted down primarily over the top of the plate, and not in the normal spot a few feet further back.

After throwing his final pitch, Darvish conferred briefly with Chirinos and new pitching coach Doug Brocail. Then with a crowd of media and fans following him, Darvish went to another field to do conditioning work before going inside for further workouts.

Since he hasn't pitched in a major league game since late in 2014, and the Rangers don't expect him back in their rotation before mid-May or June, it could be 21 months or more between Darvish starts.

Darvish missed the end of the 2014 season because of right elbow inflammation, but was full strength when he got to Arizona last spring before experiencing tightness and eventually having surgery.

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. He was an All-Star in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers.

Now he is working through the steps to get back in a big league game, and was asked if it was gratifying seeing some progress.

''Of course, that I'm feeling painless right now,'' he said. ''My hope is to continue.''

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