April 21, 2016

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is close to throwing in a game for the first time since his elbow surgery last year. He just wants to make sure he's ready for that.

Darvish said he felt ''very good'' after throwing 47 pitches Thursday in his third session on the mound for live batting practice.

While the next step in rehab for the Japanese right-hander could be pitching in a game for Double-A Frisco next Tuesday night, Darvish said he wanted time to ponder that decision.

''I need the time to think about to see where I'm at,'' Darvish said through his translator. `''I'd like to go home and think about today's outing and go from there, if I'm ready for a game or not. I just want to wait until (Friday).''

General manager Jon Daniels said Darvish looked healthy during the session facing rehabbing slugger Josh Hamilton and Rangers catchers Brett Nicholas and Bryan Holaday. Daniels said a mid-May return for Darvish to the Texas rotation ''is realistic.''

The Rangers haven't said how many rehab starts Darvish will need to make before he pitches again in the majors for the first time since Aug. 9, 2014.

''I feel like they made a pretty good program for me on rehab, and every time I make the next step I have no problem with pain or anything like that,'' Darvish said. ''So, I have no fear going to the next step.''

Darvish said he is ready to pitch, but wants to be perfect when he gets back on the mound.

''Until I get to that point, I don't want to push myself,'' he said. ''I was trying to get back as soon as possible and I worked hard to do it. I'm in a good position right now, so it's good.''

Darvish missed the end of the 2014 season because of right elbow inflammation, but was full strength when he got to Arizona the following spring. But in his first Cactus League start, he pitched only one inning and experienced tightness in his right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery on March 17, 2015.

During the controlled BP session on the field Thursday, with Darvish throwing from behind a screen, he threw 15 pitches before a break. He then threw 15 more pitches before another break, and then 17 pitches in the final segment. He threw a variety of pitches, including fastballs, changeups and his slow curve, and even threw from the stretch at times to simulate having runners on base.

''Overall, I think by the time he gets back here, he'll be his old self because he's close right now,'' Hamilton said. ''He throws so effortlessly. ... You think you're on (his fastball), and then at the last minute through the zone, it's got a little zip to it. So it looked good that way.''

When Hamilton swung and missed an off-speed pitch, he told Darvish, ''Whatever that was, throw it a lot.'' Hamilton had hit deep flyballs on the first two pitches Darvish threw him.

Hamilton is rehabbing from having surgery twice on his left knee. He is going back to extended spring training in Arizona this weekend and could start a minor league rehab assignment by the end of next week.

''Josh is still right on target for what we said earlier, also that mid-May,'' Daniels said. ''He's probably maybe a week ahead of Darvish.''

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.

Daniels said there is a chance Darvish could be back for the Rangers when they start the second half of May with a six-game trip that includes games at Oakland on Houston from May 16-22.

''That's kind of a loose target,'' Daniels said. ''We're going to kind of go outing by outing and see. We've come so far, he's done so well, we're going to take the same level of caution and make sure we get him 100 percent when he comes back.''

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