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ARLINGTON (AP) – Yu Darvish described his yearlong recovery from Tommy John surgery as fun.

And that included having a little side bet with a couple of minor leaguers the first time the Texas Rangers right-hander faced hitters since surgery in March 2015.

“I told the hitters, if you hit a home run, I’ll give you $1,000,” Darvish said through an interpreter Thursday, drawing laughter from reporters. “So that’s what I was thinking on when I was throwing. That was about it.”

But did he have to pay?

“I didn’t give them a strike,” he said with a smile.

Darvish threw a 30-pitch batting practice session Wednesday at the Rangers’ ballpark, reporting no problems but saying a day later that cooler temperatures prevented him from getting completely loose.

The Japanese pitcher said he was “not quite there yet” in most aspects of his pitching.

Asked if he felt like he had taken the next step in recovery, Darvish instead offered a time frame of “maybe a month.” He’s scheduled for two more batting practice sessions before starting a rehab assignment.

The Rangers have targeted May or June for the return of Darvish, who said he wasn’t sure where his velocity was during the live session.

“It’s been a long time,” Darvish said. “We didn’t have guns on the field or anything like that. So it’s hard for me to say how hard I’m throwing right now.”

Manager Jeff Banister said it’s a little early for him to start thinking about when Darvish will be back on the mound in a major league game. Darvish’s last appearance was Aug. 9, 2014.

“He’s not out of mind. He’s out of sight in the sense that he’s not throwing right in front of me,” Banister said. “I’m most excited that he feels good. He’s still in the rehab mode for me. I look forward to getting him back into the rotation for him, for our fans, for his teammates. There’s still a lot of obstacles to get across.”

The last time Darvish pitched in a game was in the Cactus League on March 5, 2015, when he experienced tightness in his right elbow. He had surgery 12 days later and missed all of last season. He missed most of the final two months of the 2014 season because of right elbow inflammation.

But he still described the last 13 months as fun.

“The way I look at it, I don’t see it as a challenge,” Darvish said. “I really more enjoyed it, having the rehab and all that process. It was more fun than a challenge.”

The “fun” is almost over.

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