Posted on April 27, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After signing a $126 million contract in February, Yu Darvish has not gotten off to a good start with the Chicago Cubs. In his first four starts of the season, Darvish is 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA. On top of that, Darvish has also come under fire for not “competing.” However, Cubs manager Joe Maddon won’t hear of it. Maddon came to the defense of Darvish on Thursday, one day before he takes the mound against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
“This concept that he doesn’t compete is absolutely fabricated and false,” said an annoyed Maddon. “This guy is one of the best pitchers in the world, not in the United States, but in the world. How could you arrive at that point if you don’t compete?”
It hasn’t been all bad for Darvish, who is striking out hitters at a high rate. He was excellent in his second outing of the season, which came against Friday’s opponent, the Brewers. In that start, he allowed just one run on two hits over six innings. He’s been in a position to post similar numbers in his other starts. But at a certain point in all of them, something goes wrong and Darvish can’t seem to fight his way through it.
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“I think it’s approach,” Maddon suggests. “I’ve already talked to him about that. Just like I think our hitting goes back to approach, I think the same with his pitching, just trying to get him to slow down moments…. There are times even good players don’t process the moment well enough and things get away from them. That’s where I think he’s at.”
Maddon says that he’s spoken to Darvish about focusing only on the next pitch and not anything that’s already happened before. The Cubs skipper is also confident the Darvish who warranted that $126 million contract over the winter will soon show up on the mound at Wrigley Field.
“I think the dialogue has gotten a little bit out of control,” said Maddon. “This guy’s really, really good. When you sit on the sideline and watch this, it’s fabulous. And he’s had a tremendous amount of success. He’s going through a lot of adjustments right now in Chicago. High expectations, I get all that stuff. This guy’s good. This guy’s going to show it. He’s going to show up.”
Of course, the sooner Darvish can get things turned around, the better. The Cubs aren’t exactly struggling this year, but they aren’t clicking on all cylinders either. Jose Quintana has also endured plenty of struggles early in the year. With Darvish also unreliable at this point, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have been forced to do a lot of the heavy lifting in Chicago’s rotation.
More importantly, the Cubs find themselves in a crowded NL Central. At the start of the day Friday, there were four teams within two games of one another. If things stay that tight, the Cubs won’t have much margin for error. Ultimately, if they expect to put together a winning streak that can help separate them from the pack, they’ll need their rotation performing at a high level. That means they need Darvish to put his slow start behind him and get on track.