texas rangers

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."

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Texas Rangers?

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USA TODAY

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Texas Rangers?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Texas Rangers?

They weren’t good last year, missing the playoffs after back-to-back division titles in 2015 and 2016.

In the same American League West (there is only one American League West) as the seemingly invincible Houston Astros, it’s difficult to forecast a positive outlook for these Rangers. But they were still in that maddeningly crowded wild-card race in September last year, so maybe they can sneak their way into the postseason.

If that’s going to happen, it’s going to be in large part because they have Joey Gallo, who hits the ball about a million miles every time he launches a homer into that second deck at Globe Life Field or whatever they now call what they used to call the Ballpark in Arlington. Gallo hit 41 homers last year. One of them went 491 feet. That’s far. And if you’re a nerd who loves exit velocity, then you’ll love Gallo, who had the third highest average exit velocity in the game last season, trailing only Aaron Judge and Nelson Cruz.

There are plenty of other good long-ballers on the Rangers, too. Infamous face-puncher Rougned Odor hit 30 homers in 2017 despite having the worst on-base percentage in the AL. Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara all hit 20 of ‘em.

But the pitching is another story, and the cavalcade of new faces brought in to bolster the rotation doesn’t seem capable of much bolstering. Matt Moore led the National League with 15 losses as a San Francisco Giant last season. Doug Fister put up a 4.88 ERA in just 18 outings for the Boston Red Sox. Mike Minor was actually really good out of the bullpen for the Kansas City Royals, but he hasn’t started a big league game since 2014, when things didn’t go so hot as an Atlanta Brave.

Of course, the most fun thing about the Rangers this season — aside from 500-foot homers and the potential for further face-punching — is the return of Tim Lincecum. Yes, good ol’ Mitchy Kramer is back, and he’s trying another late-career revival after his last late-career revival back in 2016 spawned a 9.16 ERA with the Los Angeles Angels. This time around, there probably won't be any starts for Big Time Timmy Jim, but in a wild twist of events he could end up the Rangers’ closer!

Anything else to know about the Rangers? Well, we’ve come this far without mentioning Adrian Beltre, the soon-to-be 39-year-old who had one of the game’s best on-base percentages last season and achieved the rare title of simultaneously being baseball’s greatest prankster and baseball’s greatest hater of pranks:

That’ll cover the Rangers, for the most part. The postseason might be a longshot, but if you live anywhere in the Metroplex, know that a Joey Gallo home run ball can reach your house. So souvenirs!

2017 record: 78-84, third place in AL West

Offseason additions: Matt Moore, Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Tim Lincecum, Chris Martin, Jesse Chavez

Offseason departures: Mike Napoli, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez (worth noting that the Rangers traded Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress during the 2017 season)

X-factor: The Rangers have a guy named Carlos Tocci, who the White Sox had for like five minutes after picking him in the Rule 5 Draft in December and then immediately trading him. He's not the X-factor, though, unless he ends up on that singing show with Britney Spears. No, the X-factor is Willie Calhoun, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect acquired in the Yu Darvish trade last summer. The outfielder had a small taste of big league action last season, picking up nine hits including a homer in 34 at-bats. But he was pretty darn impressive in Triple-A, slashing .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers in 128 games split between the Dodgers and Rangers organizations. He figures to be up soon.

Projected lineup:

1. Delino DeShields Jr., CF
2. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
3. Nomar Mazara, RF
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Joey Gallo, 1B
6. Elvis Andrus, SS
7. Rougned Odor, 2B
8. Robinson Chirinos, C
9. Drew Robinson, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Cole Hamels
2. Matt Moore
3. Doug Fister
4. Mike Minor
5. Martin Perez

Prediction: Fourth place in AL West, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates

Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes

Cubs adding catching depth that may help them out in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes

Chris Gimenez, come on down.

The 35-year-old catcher isn't exactly a household name, but he's been signed by the Cubs to add backstop depth, according to Chris Cotillo and Ken Rosenthal:

The Cubs didn't have much depth in the catching department beyond Willson Contreras and inexperienced rookie Victor Caratini and while Gimenez doesn't light up the stat column, he's a link to Yu Darvish that could give the Cubs a unique advantage in that domain:

Darvish and Gimenez played together with the Texas Rangers in 2014-15 (though Darvish was hurt in 2015) and Gimenez has been shedding some light on what the free-agent pitcher may be thinking this winter. Is this Part II of a David Ross-Jon Lester personal catcher situation?

That may be reading a bit too much into things, as the Cubs were always going to sign a veteran catcher to provide depth beyond the unproven Caratini. They saw how important that was in 2017 when Alex Avila spent roughly a month as the starter when Contreras was hurt.

The link between Gimenez and Darvish is real, but the frontline starter has also made 48 starts over the last two seasons while throwing to a catcher not named Gimenez. And the free agent catching market is pretty thin beyond Avila and Jonathan Lucroy, both of whom should earn starter's money or close to it.

Gimenez has played 361 games in the big leagues over the last nine seasons as a journeyman, with stops in Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Texas, Cleveland (again), Texas (again), Cleveland (again) and then Minnesota last year. He played for Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey while in Tampa Bay.

Gimenez turned in a career season in 2017 with the Twins, notching new highs in games played (74), at-bats (186), runs (28), hits (41), homers (7), RBI (16) and walks (33).

He has a career .218 batting average with a .309 on-base percentage, .345 slugging and .654 OPS. 

But Gimenez isn't just a catcher. He's made nine appearances as a pitcher over the last few years, including six in 2017, where he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings.

Gimenez will probably compete with Caratini for the backup catcher role in Chicago and can lend a veteran presence. He's also the best bet to take for first position player to pitch in a game in 2018.