Darvish's Opening Day chances growing slimmer

Darvish's Opening Day chances growing slimmer

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The chances of Yu Darvish pitching on Opening Day for the Rangers appear to be diminishing with just one week to go. His problems are just one reason why the Rangers want Joe Saunders in their rotation to start the season.

Darvish played catch for 10 minutes on Monday but is still experiencing stiffness in his neck. The Rangers will re-evaluate him on Tuesday but still aren't sure when he'll get back on the mound. General manager Jon Daniels admitted that Darvish's situation is of "moderate" concern.

"When somebody is not out there, then there is a level of concern," Daniels said.

Daniels said it wouldn't be a big deal to push Darvish's first start back a couple of days into the season.

"The bigger concern is how we make sure he makes 32 to 35 starts," Daniels said.

The Rangers are planning to meet on Monday night to discuss their pitching situation. But it appears likely that Saunders will be in the rotation even though he was dealing with a "dead arm" on Sunday and allowed nine runs in 1 1/3 innings in a start against the Padres.

"He told us he was dealing with a dead arm and that's common," manager Ron Washington said. "He came in a few weeks behind everybody else. Otherwise he would have been through it already."

The Rangers want Saunders because he is an experienced veteran who eats innings. He has averaged 192 innings per season over the past six years. That could be crucial in a rotation that includes Tanner Scheppers, who is switching to the rotation from the bullpen, and Martin Perez, who is entering his first full season as a starter. The rotation could also include Robbie Ross, who would also be switching from the bullpen, or Colby Lewis, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012.

Saunders or Ross could at least be a bridge until Matt Harrison is ready. Harrison, who missed almost all of last season with a herniated disk, pitched three innings on Sunday night in a Minor League game and is scheduled for three more on Friday in San Antonio. He could be ready to rejoin the rotation by mid-April at the earliest.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.