SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Yu Darvish spun a 62 mph eephus pitch and walked calmly off the mound at Four Winds Field.
It was Darvish's 39th pitch of the evening for the South Bend Cubs in the Midwest League and a major step toward a return to the North Side of Chicago.
But the Cubs' $126 million man still wasn't able to fully declare his right triceps at 100 percent.
Darvish admitted he got more fatigued with his triceps as the game wore on, when he needed 18 pitches to get through his 5th and final inning.
"Not necessarily pain, but I can't for sure say there's nothing going on in the triceps," Darvish said through a translator. "It's not like anything bad, but I feel like anyone who comes off the DL goes through this. So I think this is more the process."
What Darvish showed on the field and what he said in front of the TV cameras and a group of reporters didn't quite match up Monday night.
On the mound, he needed only 57 pitches to get through his 5 innings, throwing 41 for strikes and giving the sold-out Indiana crowd at Four Winds Field plenty to cheer about.
Darvish was impressive and efficient, even if he was facing guys that are four promotions from the big leagues. His initial goal was to get through 4 innings, but he exceeded those expectations, leading to a self-assessed rating of a "12 out of 10" on the rehab stint with the organization's Class-A affiliate.
Darvish will fly to Los Angeles to meet up with his Cubs teammates in the middle of a four-game set with the Dodgers. He doesn't know if he will need another rehab start before he can return to the big-league rotation.
He acknowledged he needs to build up his conditioning and confidence after missing so much time and said he will chat with Cubs staff and coaches to determine the next step.
But is he still concerned about his physical condition?
"It's day-by-day," Darvish said. "It differs. I had some anxiety coming in towards this game as I did with the sim game. In that sense, it's the same, but hopefully I can build my confidence going forward."
Darvish has stated multiple times now — including after that sim game last week at Wrigley Field — he has felt anxiety about how he will hold up physically pitching off a mound and being able to really let it go.
Even though an MRI four weeks ago revealed no structural issue with his triceps, Darvish has said his past elbow issues (he had Tommy John surgery in March 2015) were in the back of his mind.
"I think it has to be where both the right and left condition in the triceps has to feel the same — healthy," Darvish said. "So it's not necessarily having to go through more rehab starts, it's just how the body feels, how the triceps feels."
Monday night marked the first time in more than a month that the Cubs' biggest acquisition of the winter was able to get into a game.
Darvish struck out 5 batters, including that 4th-inning eephus that the West Michigan White Caps' designated hitter Reynaldo Rivera swung through. Rivera collected the first hit off Darvish in the second inning when he stroked a 1-0 pitch off the "Rose Pest Solutions" ad on the right field wall.
Darvish also served up a long home run to the White Caps' No. 9 hitter in the second inning, a blast that went to the left of this Tiki Hut in left field:
Darvish heads back out for the 4th inning. That Tiki Hut in LF is where the HR he gave up landed (just to the left of the structure). pic.twitter.com/RG165zosjK— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) June 25, 2018
The only other baserunner Darvish allowed was another double off the wall, this time off the "Kountry Wood Products" sign in left-center. All 3 hits came off his splitter, which was clocked at 90-91 mph.
The veteran was able to dial it up to 94 mph with his fastball and threw all his pitches for strikes, using only fastball, sliders and a few splitters in the first 2 innings before busting out the curveball in the 3rd inning.
Darvish didn't reach a 3-ball count on a hitter until the 5th inning and threw 31 of 39 pitches for strikes in the first 4 innings. His pitch count by inning: 5, 13, 10, 11, 18.
The 31-year-old right-hander last started in the majors on May 20, tossing 6 innings of 1-run ball in Cincinnati (the trip where the Cubs won 3 of 4, as opposed to this past weekend that turned in nightmarish results). He hit the disabled list shortly after that — over Memorial Day Weekend — with the triceps issue.
Darvish hit the disabled list the first time after his May 2nd start with the flu and missed a couple turns through the Cubs rotation. He threw 4 innings in Atlanta on May 15 before being removed from that start with leg cramps.
Darvish has not pitched at Wrigley Field since that May 2 start and only has 3 starts there this season.
On the whole in 2018, Darvish is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings for the big-league club.