Yu Darvish throws an 89-pitch bullpen session, nearing return to Rangers’ starting rotation

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish was placed on the 15-day disabled list the night before the start of the regular season with discomfort in his neck. But it looks as though he’ll only miss one turn in the rotation.

According to Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, Darvish threw an 89-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday evening at Globe Life Park and had no issues with his neck. “We did the assimilation of probably four innings of work, getting up and down,” pitching coach Mike Maddux told Durrett. “All pitches were good. He looked very good, feels healthy.”

The Rangers will wait to see how Darvish feels Wednesday before setting up a plan for his return. He is eligible to be activated on Saturday, and a Sunday or Monday debut in Boston is a possibility.

Darvish, 27, had a stellar 2.83 ERA and an MLB-best 277 strikeouts in 209 2/3 innings last season.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.