Cubs get good news on Yu Darvish, but know he still has a mental hurdle to clear

Cubs get good news on Yu Darvish, but know he still has a mental hurdle to clear

The Cubs received good news on Yu Darvish after beating the Twins 10-6 Friday evening at Wrigley Field.

After the Cubs left Los Angeles, Darvish flew to Dallas to meet with Dr. Keith Meister to get a second opinion on his injured arm. He was diagnosed with an elbow impingement and inflammation and received a cortisone shot. He won't be able to throw for 3-5 days, but after that, he will be re-evaluated and could start throwing again next week.

By the time he gets the all-clear and then builds up his conditioning and arm strength, there probably isn't any chance of seeing Darvish before the All-Star Break.

Whenever he is able to make his return to a big-league mound, the Cubs acknowledge there is a mental hurdle he will have to get past.

After signing a 6-year, $126 million deal over the winter, it would be an understatement to say things have not gone smoothly for the 31-year-old pitcher in Chicago.

Darvish looked great in his rehab stint in Class-A South Bend Monday night, but was apprehensive in his post-start press conference. Then he met up with the Cubs at Dodger Stadium and chatted with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times about how difficult the last 8-9 months have been on him psychologically since he had two rough starts in the World Series for the Dodgers last fall.

Darvish then threw a bullpen in front of Cubs officials Thursday morning in L.A. and had to cut it short because he reported "pain" in his triceps, not just residual soreness or tightness.

As a result, the Cubs sent Darvish to meet with Dr. Meister, who is one of the team doctors for the Rangers and knows Darvish's history extensively dating back before the pitcher's 2015 Tommy John surgery.

Regardless of where he's at physically, the Cubs understand there's a psychological hurdle Darvish will have to get over at some point.

After all, 90 percent of this game is half mental, right?

"I can't speak for him, but for me, maybe you do press a little bit going to a new spot," said Tyler Chatwood, who also signed with the Cubs as a free agent starting pitcher over the winter. "You just want to impress them rather than being what you've always been and why they wanted you in the first place. So I think there's that element to it, but I can't speak for him."

Chris Gimenez — who is close friends with Darvish and has caught the pitcher dating back to 2014 — echoed Chatwood's comments about fitting in immediately with a new team in a new place in front of a new group of fans. The veteran catcher has been on six different MLB teams in his career, including four separate squads in the last four seasons.

"I think any player would say that," Gimenez said. "Everybody wants to come out and show their best at all times, no matter what the contract or whether you've been here years or haven't.

"...You definitely want to get off on your best foot. We gotta get him back healthy first and foremost so that he can go out there and show everybody what he can do."

Darvish has already been on the disabled list for 5 weeks for the triceps issue that first cropped up right before Memorial Day weekend. He was also on the disabled list in early May for the flu.

He hasn't pitched at Wrigley Field since May 2 and will cross the season's halfway mark with only 40 innings under his belt.

Between the big contract, the DL stints, the rough World Series starts and the outcry from fans, there is a lot of pressure on Darvish to go out there and perform.

"I really want to try to emilerate that concern in his mind," Joe Maddon said. "I just want him to go play and go pitch. We all know he's here under free agent status or whatever. But I just want him to go out and just play. Just be Yu Darvish and we'll take it from there.

"Make sure everything's healthy, support him and then go play. It's easier said than done, but I want him to be unencumbered when he goes out there and hopefully he'll feel that through our support. That's how I work with everybody here.

"It's easy to get caught in the trap of expectations. But, not a bad thing. Pressure's a good thing. It should bring out the best in Yu at some point. As we get to know Yu better, to really channel it in the proper direction, support him properly, have him understand that we're with him 100 percent and I believe you're gonna see the end result being a positive one."

Of course Darvish is frustrated. Of course the Cubs are frustrated. Of course Cubs fans are frustrated. 

But all the frustration in the world won't get Darvish back out on a big-league mound any sooner. 

"He definitely wants to be out there and helping his team," Maddon said. "Of course he does. I've had a lot of conversations with him. He really is a wonderful young man and we talk straight up. He is frustrated to be in this position right now.

"That's what I'm saying. It's easy to deingrate or point fingers or question, but I never question when somebody tells me they're injured and you have to support that. So we'll see what happens next. Get him back on the mound and take it from there.

"He can be such a boon to us, obviously. That's why we signed him in the first place. It's a long season, he's not obviously used up a whole lot of innings to this point. Hopefully he gets it right and then can be very strong for us in the second half and down the stretch."

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.