ARLINGTON -- Jake Diekman threw his third batting-practice session before the Rangers' series opener against the Tigers on Monday, and the reviews indicate that it was his most promising one yet.The last one, in Minnesota, didn't go as well as Diekman and the Rangers would have liked, but Monday's was
ARLINGTON -- Jake Diekman threw his third batting-practice session before the Rangers' series opener against the Tigers on Monday, and the reviews indicate that it was his most promising one yet.
The last one, in Minnesota, didn't go as well as Diekman and the Rangers would have liked, but Monday's was markedly better. He threw a few more than his scheduled 20 pitches to Delino DeShields and Drew Robinson, but that didn't affect how he felt afterward.
"[I feel] a lot stronger. I don't have dead arm anymore," said Diekman. "I feel like my arm strength will just continue to keep going. I try to make it as realistic as possible. ... I mean, I feel really good. I'm not sore right now; I feel like I could probably pitch again. I feel like I'm just going to get stronger and stronger and stronger."
Manager Jeff Banister was in attendance, and he's pleased with how Diekman has progressed. Especially, as Banister said, Diekman's rehab is among the more unique journeys in the Major Leagues.
Diekman hasn't pitched for the Rangers since Oct. 2, 2016, after undergoing three surgeries to correct his ulcerative colitis, and he's somewhere along the progression route a player would take during Spring Training.
But unlike Spring Training, there is more to getting into game shape than going to the park and throwing for strength. There are conditioning regimens and Pitchers Fielding Practice, among other things, but even so, Diekman is on the right track.
"I don't really know what we expected from a guy that had the surgery that he had. I think he might be the only guy in baseball, so I'm not real sure what we expected," Banister said. "But has he progressed nicely? Yes. Today was probably his best day. Seemed like the strength was really close, energy was great. I think he only needed to stop and pause for a little small section of the number of pitches that he threw. Velo was much better, he was sharper."
The next step is for Diekman to play catch 24 hours after the BP session, at which point the Rangers will evaluate him and go from there. They aren't ready to say if and when a rehab assignment will be in the cards, but playing in a game is obviously different from controlled pitching against teammates in an empty stadium.
"Just getting into that game situation, your adrenaline will be more, you'll probably throw harder," Diekman said. "You'll fly open a lot more with your mechanics, you'll probably be super excited. Just stuff like that, and I'll need to be able to harness that."
Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas.