Posted on August 4, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Chicago Cubs Yu Darvish

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What was initially supposed to be a short stint on the DL for Chicago Cubs starter Yu Darvish has turned into a more than two-month absence. However, Darvish now says that he’s able to pitch pain-free and is “very optimistic” that he’ll return to the team’s rotation before the end of the season.

Darvish threw a 55-pitch bullpen session on Saturday. It was his first extended action on a mound since a June 25 rehab outing. He came out of the session feeling good, finally optimistic that he’s on the right track after a rough first season in Chicago.

“All my pitches, velocity-wise, were up there at their highest and then I was able to follow through with my arm,” Darvish told reporters through a translator. “Now that I’m pitching, I’m very optimistic about this process.”

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Darvish initially went to the DL in late May with triceps tendinitis. At the time, it was thought to be a minor setback. But his recovery turned out to be much slower than expected. However, about 10 days ago, Darvish started receiving treatment on his back rather than his elbow. That change in approach has made a huge difference.

“Treatment-wise, I switched from treating the elbow to the spine, the back, and that triggered a more positive level,” explains Darvish. “Everything up until that point there was pain and discomfort involved. I was just trying to see alternatives.”

It may be just one bullpen session, but Darvish is now more positive that he’ll be back and able to pitch better than he did early in the year. In his eight starts before going to the DL in late May, Darvish was 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA. Cubs manager Joe Maddon agrees that Darvish is feeling much better than he did before the injury.

“He seems a little more upbeat,” said Maddon. “His smile was easier. I try to read body language and faces — and when you ask pitchers how they’re feeling, they reveal what’s going on, and normally it is the smile. I took that as a good thing.”

Since Darvish has been out, the Cubs acquired Cole Hamels to help give their bullpen a lift. But they would certainly welcome back Darvish if his recovery continues to go well. Tyler Chatwood was moved to the bullpen to make room for Hamels. The Cubs could easily do the same with Mike Montgomery if Darvish were to return. In that sense, Darvish’s return could also improve Chicago’s bullpen.

Obviously, Darvish has a little more work to do before coming off the DL. After such a long absence, he’ll likely need at least a couple minor league rehab games before he’s ready to be activated. But it’s possible he could return by the end of August.

A healthy Darvish would undoubtedly provide the Cubs with a huge boost late in the season. The Cubs are locked in a tight race with the Brewers atop the NL Central. If Chicago falters in that race, the Cubs would join a crowded wild-card picture. The possibility of Darvish returning gives the Cubs a potential difference-maker heading down the stretch.

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