ST. LOUIS - At first, Yu Darvish couldn't point to just one thing that led to his midseason turnaround in Year 2 with the Cubs.
"I have a lot of reasons - like 20 or something," Darvish said, smiling.
But when pressed for the top reason, he summed it all up pretty simply:
"Because of the Cubs," he said. "The organization - not only Joe [Maddon] and Theo [Epstein] and Jed [Hoyer] and the other guys were patient and they were always helpful for me."
He particularly credited Maddon for sticking with him after an injury-marred 2018 season and a slow start to 2019.
"He's a great person, not only a great manager," Darvish said. "Especially last year and the beginning of the year, he was so patient with me. So that's why I feel really good right now - because of him."
With the Cubs out of playoff contention and already focused on Darvish's workload even before September hit, they decided to shut down the 33-year-old righty and not push him to make one more start in St. Louis. That means the last time he got in a game was the final contest at Wrigley when he smashed his cleats and water bottle into his locker following a frustrating loss.
Darvish finished the season on an incredible roll, asking for the ball to start the Cubs’ second half and posting a 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 118 strikeouts against only 7 walks in 13 starts since the All-Star Break. He racked up at least 12 strikeouts in each of his final three outings.
From Day 1 of spring training, the narrative surrounding Darvish was how much more comfortable he was in his second year with the Cubs after signing the six-year, $126 million pact in February 2018. That comfort and confidence really started to shine through in the final couple months of the season.
"The second half, even I was so surprised what I was doing, especially command-wise," Darvish said. "I'm so happy."
He admitted feeling totally different this season compared to 2018.
"Last year, I had an injury and I didn't talk to a lot of guys," Darvish said. "But now I'm talking to a lot of guys and I know who they are. This organization is perfect for me."
When asked why the Cubs are such a good fit for him, Darvish again pointed to how they were patient with him during the long onboarding process and made him feel confident and comfortable despite an inauspicious start to his Chicago career.
"He's a very sensitive young man and he's very sensitive to his environment. That's OK. We all are," Maddon said. "And I think once he got settled in here, that's when you saw the real Yu. First of all, he got well and then he got settled in and then all of a sudden you saw this dynamic run that he's been on.
"I think they're all contributing factors. I don't think you can point at one thing. He wasn't well last year overall. But once he became well - 'I'm a Cub, I'm into it, I like Chicago, I love my teammates' - then you saw the result."
Darvish actually could become a free agent this year, as he has an opt-out in his contract.
But would he really want to pass up on $81 million guaranteed over the next four years and all the momentum he's built up with the Cubs to test the unknown of the market again?
"I'm not decided yet," he said. "But I have to talk to my family and agent, too. My kids and my wife love Chicago - especially the kids, who only care about the Cubbies. So I don't think [I'll exercise the opt-out]."
Right now, he's more worried about trying to figure out a way to carry this level of confidence over to spring training 2020.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.