Darvish’s DL stint may be more mental than physical

The Texas Rangers were quick to say that Yu Darvish ending up on the disabled list with fatigue of the trapezius muscle in his upper back was nothing to panic about. And if Darvish only misses one start, maybe they’re right.

But the same folks who questioned Rangers manager Ron Washington’s decision to allow Darvish to reach 130 pitches in a blowout game earlier this season have found their voice again. Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine doesn’t think Darvish’s soreness has anything to do with his previous outings.

“At this stage, it’s not something we’re really worried about,” Levine told reporters Thursday. “We think it’s probably a little bit more fatigue than anything. It will put him in the best position to hit the ground running in the second half.”

But there’s no denying the fact Darvish leads the majors in most pitches per start at 109.5. (Former Rangers starter C.J. Wilson is running a close second, by the way). It’s not like Darvish has fallen apart since his 130-pitch outing. And the Rangers insist that Darvish didn’t feel the soreness until his regularly scheduled bullpen session Monday.

“I don’t think this is a big issue,” Darvish said in a statement released by the Rangers. “It’s just a precaution, but I’d rather miss one start than push through it.”

I do think it has to be somewhat significant for Darvish not to pitch through it when you factor in his track record. He’s not the type of pitcher who seeks rest.

During his rookie season, the Rangers were extremely cautious with Darvish and looked to get him extra days off at every turn. That hasn’t been the case this season.

I believe this is probably more of a mental than physical break for Darvish. He has been annoyed by the suggestion he needs to pitch off his fastball rather than relying on his off-speed stuff. In fact, he recently reminded everyone that he’s a “breaking ball” pitcher. I think a few days away from the ballpark would do wonders for Darvish, but he’s planning to attend the All-Star game in New York. He won’t have to worry about pitching, but the media attention will be the same. And yes, he’ll be asked why he seems so opposed to pitching off his fastball.

At least publicly, Washington says he agrees with whatever Darvish thinks about his pitch mix. I’ve been a little surprised by how deferential the Rangers have been toward Darvish. Even when he’s made a mistake, like missing a pickoff play, the Rangers have covered for him. They certainly don’t take that approach with other young players.

Hopefully this is just about the Rangers being cautious with Darvish at a time when they can get him some extra rest. Being in the proper frame of mind for the second half is just as important as his physical health.

Darvish is probably receiving too much feedback right now. You can hear it in his voice during news conferences.

Perhaps a few days away from the mound will give him a chance to clear his mind. We can talk about how the Rangers need to add players before the trade deadline.

But they aren’t going anywhere without a healthy Darvish.