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04/25/08 9:42 PM ET

McCarthy's return to Rangers delayed

Injured righty set back at least six weeks after bullpen session

ARLINGTON -- The prospect of right-hander Brandon McCarthy helping turn around the Rangers' dismal start has dimmed considerably once again.

McCarthy, who started the season on the disabled list and was expected to miss a month because of a muscle strain near his right elbow, has experienced a setback that will prevent him from throwing a baseball for at least six more weeks.

"Everything was going good with my throwing program, up until my first bullpen [session]," said McCarthy, who has been at the team's extended Spring Training camp in Surprise, Ariz. "It just wasn't ready."

McCarthy, who was 5-10 with a 4.87 ERA last season, underwent a new MRI scan, and was examined this week by team physician Dr. Keith Meister. The good news was that the diagnosis of a strained muscle has not changed, meaning that no ligament damage has been detected, and surgery remains unnecessary.

"They told me that if there is an arm injury to have, I guess this is it," McCarthy said. "But it still [stinks]. It just hasn't gotten healed to where it needs to be yet."

McCarthy will not be cleared to throw for another six weeks, until the first week of June. Even if all goes well from that point, he will need to build up arm strength and make some Minor League rehabilitation starts, and wouldn't be likely to rejoin the Rangers until close to the mid-July All-Star break. And that's the best-case scenario.

"I hope that he's a real option for us in the second half," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's really difficult to say at the moment. When he's healthy, that's when we will factor him back in as an option."

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.