Yu Darvish is in line to make his first start Saturday for the Texas Rangers in nearly 22 months, and since having Tommy John surgery.
Darvish is expected to start for the Rangers in Saturday night's home game against Pittsburgh after five rehab outings this month.
Manager Jeff Banister said Monday that Darvish will start the middle game of that interleague series if he feels good.
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The right-hander from Japan last pitched in a major league game Aug. 9, 2014, then missed the end of that season with right elbow inflammation. Darvish had more issues the following spring and had surgery on March 17, 2015.
In the five rehab starts split between Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco, Darvish had a 0.90 ERA with 21 strikeouts and six walks in 20 innings. After throwing 87 pitches in six scoreless innings for Frisco on Sunday, Darvish said he felt good and was ready to get back.
"All the reports we got were glowing. The fastball, how he used the fastball, secondary stuff was sharp," Banister said. "More important for me is today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and how he continues to respond and how he feels. ... If he feels good enough to start, he starts on Saturday."
The Rangers have an off day Thursday, and Cole Hamels, who pitched for them Sunday, will start the opener against the Pirates on Friday night. Banister said that allows Hamels, their ace left-hander, to stay on regular rest, and for the returning right-handed ace to have an extra day of rest after rehab.
That would also provide an extra day for Darvish between his first two starts for the Rangers. They have another scheduled off day the following Thursday.
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 seven seasons in Japan. He was an All-Star in each of his first three seasons for the Rangers.