The Chicago Cubs may be better served by taking their time with Yu Darvish, rather than working to get him back before the All-Star Game.
After testing his right triceps for the first time since late May, things looked good for Yu Darvish. But with a month left till the All-Star Break and Mike Montgomery rolling as a spot-starter, the Chicago Cubs have no reason to rush back their big right-hander.
We all know the story. Cubs sign Darvish, in some eyes, choosing him over fan favorite Jake Arrieta. With a six-year, $126 contract in his pocket, the Japanese-born hurler comes to the North Side, widely viewed as the missing piece needed to return to the World Series.
Instead, Darvish’s Cubs career began with a series of fifth-inning implosions. Then, he hit the disabled list after falling ill with influenza. Now, for the second time in as many months, the right-hander finds himself shelved – this time, with a triceps injury.
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And, when he has been on the field, he’s been a disappointment. Thanks to a strong outing the last time out, his earned run average is finally below 5.00. Still, that’s hardly something to be excited about when he’s supposed to be your ace.
Taking the first steps
On Wednesday, Darvish took his first steps in a return to the mound, throwing a bullpen session.
"“Today was a big day,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “He let it go and felt really good. That’s usually a good sign of what’s going to happen next.”"
According to MLB.com, Chicago expects another session sometime this weekend while the team is in St. Louis. From there, the front office and management can plot a course back for Darvish.
But the Cubs really have no reason to rush Darvish in his recovery. The team’s pitching is hardly a concern at this point in the season. Rather, an inconsistent offense has been a bigger thorn in the team’s side.
Mike Montgomery, though, is the lynchpin in all this. In four starts filling in for the injured Darvish, the left-hander has dazzled. He carries a 1.13 ERA this year as a starter – leading many to question who becomes the odd man out once Darvish does, indeed, return.
Taking the slow, cautious route in recovery
And, at least as far as Darvish is concerned, he seems unlikely to push the envelope in his rehab.
"“Because I had a similar injury when I had Tommy John surgery with the ligament, I’m more careful and sensitive this time,” Darvish said. “I want to take the time and process things slowly. The MRI showed nothing. From the experience from the Tommy John surgery [in 2015], I have to take this [session] as a positive way going forward.”"
So, what it all boils down to is this. Things went well on Wednesday – obviously a good sign for both Darvish and the Cubs. But Chicago may be better served letting him work back at his own pace, targeting a mid-July date instead of getting a couple first-half starts under his belt before the All-Star Game.
It buys time on a Mike Montgomery decision, lets you ensure Darvish is ready for the stretch run and, hopefully, the postseason and keeps things on an even keel for the time being. Really, it makes too much sense to see the Cubs handling it any other way.