Cubs see a lot of 'fight' in Yu Darvish as he works his way back to rotation

Cubs see a lot of 'fight' in Yu Darvish as he works his way back to rotation

MILWAUKEE - Operation: Improve Yu Darvish's Image is in full effect.

The Cubs had their $126 million man in Milwaukee Tuesday, throwing a bullpen and meeting with the media as he tries to work his way back from a triceps issue onto a big-league mound to help this team toward a World Series.

Theo Epstein was in town for the Cubs wives/girlfriends charity softball game Tuesday afternoon and watched Darvish's bullpen closely along with manager Joe Maddon, pitching coach Jim Hickey and assistant GM Randy Bush.

All reports from the bullpen were overwhelmingly positive and Darvish even cracked a couple jokes as he met with a large contigent of Chicago media.

When asked if he thinks Cubs fans hate him in Chicago, Darvish joked, "I gotta ask each one of them."

The 31-year-old Darvish said he never told catcher and friend Chris Gimenez he believes Cubs fans hate him and insisted the only discussion between the two teammates was about fans in Los Angeles after Darvish was shelled in a pair of World Series starts for the Dodgers last fall.

"The fans here are very supportive," Darvish said through a translator. "Even in my situation, they'll come up to me when they see me in town and say, 'Hey, thanks for the performance' and all that, so I really do feel the support."

Darvish hasn't started for the Cubs since May 20, when he allowed only a run in 6 innings against the Reds in Cincinnati. This is the second time he's been on the disabled list this season and has thrown just 14.1 innings since the beginning of May.

The Cubs believe his Tuesday bullpen was a sign of good things to come.

"The ball was coming out hot and it was going right where he wanted to throw it," Maddon said. "Good command. ... He looked really good. It was just a bullpen, but it was very encouraging to see him throwing that easily that well."

The Cubs president of baseball operations agreed.

"Today was a big day," Epstein said. "He let it go and he felt really good. That's usually a good sign about what's gonna come next."

There is no set timetable for Darvish's return and right now, there's nothing set in stone for when he would even throw off a mound again.

That could come Friday after Tuesday's bullpen tallying somewhere in the 30 pitch range.

The Cubs — and Darvish — are curious to see how the triceps feels Wednesday and Thursday after dialing it up off the mound.

Darvish said he has a little concern about the arm in his head after a history of Tommy John surgery but his MRI came back clean, so now it's just a matter of feel and building the strength back up.

Still, Darvish said his arm was not ailing him at all during his last start in Cincinnati and the triceps issue didn't manifest itself until the day after that outing.

Darvish insists he feels no pressure to get back to pitching in games and help live up to the six-year deal he signed in February.

"I had a lot of time to think through during the DL time," Darvish said. "So I try not to think too much under the pressure and rather just take it in a positive way. I think I can come out of the DL positively."

Maddon believes he's at a good point with Darvish in building the relationship and trust between player and manager and Maddon can give his opinion without any pushback from Darvish.

The plan is for the veteran right-hander to accompany the Cubs to St. Louis over the weekend and stick with the team from there as he continues his rehab.

For all the questions about Darvish's mental strength or intestinal fortitude, the Cubs are projecting a united front at the moment and insist they're doing all they can to make him feel comfortable and supported in the organization.

"Almost every free agent goes through [struggles]," Epstein said. "Some guys are lucky enough to have things break their way early and then it's not as big of an issue. But most free agents struggle. Maybe it's a month, maybe it turns into three months, maybe it's a whole season.

"But there's a point in time where you fight back and you develop a sense of new normal and comfortable in your surroundings and you establish yourself. ... As an organization, you just try to support him, make him feel as comfortable as possible and also make sure there's a lot of fight there. I think there is.

"Today was a great day. He didn't have to drive up here; he could've waited, met the team in St. Louis, but he pushed his schedule. He was feeling good; he wanted to come up here and throw, so it was a good day."

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career


Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”