Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish returns to the mound Monday in South Bend

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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A second stint on the disabled list may be coming to a close for Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish, who makes his first rehab start Monday night.

Whether you like it or not, the Chicago Cubs will not simply hold Yu Darvish on the bench for the remainder of his six-year deal. Accept it. Come to terms with it. Because I don’t want to hear the complaints or instant gratification nonsense I’ve heard the last few months.

We’re eight starts into said six-year deal. Not even to the All-Star Break in year one. It’s way too early to label this a bust. The fact that I even have to say that is ridiculous, but welcome to covering the Cubs in the post-World Series title era.

The right-hander faces an important test on Monday night when he takes the ball in South Bend. This marks the first time he’s pitched in a game since May 20, when he turned in six innings of one-run ball against Cincinnati.

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It’s been a disappointing start to his Cubs career, to be sure. In four of his eight outings, he’s allowed four or more earned runs. Darvish is yet to pitch seven innings for Chicago. But, to be fair, longevity has been an issue for the entire rotation, leading Joe Maddon to overtax and overuse his pen early in the year.

Cubs have had a mixed bag in the rotation

Getting a healthy, effective Darvish back could be a big boost for a team that’s largely operated without their biggest offseason pickup in 2018. The big right-hander signed with the intention of headlining a rotation that featured a pair of top-tier arms in Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.

Lester, for his part, is a legitimate Cy Young contender. Hendricks needs to find his rhythm and keep the ball in the yard if he wants to be considered a front-end piece in the Cubs’ rotation. Behind these two veterans, Jose Quintana, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood hold berths in the staff.

Quintana continues to search for consistency. Chatwood, the Cubs’ other big pitching addition, tests those with cardiac issues on a nightly basis. His walk rate, simply put, can’t be sustained over an entire season. If it is, things could head south in a very big way before season’s end.

The big piece here? Mike Montgomery.

The left-hander failed to turn in a quality start on Sunday for the first time since filling in for Darvish. He turned in six innings of one-run ball before things got rough in the seventh. All told, he pitched six-plus innings, allowing four earned runs on the afternoon.

So what happens if all goes well and Darvish returns? Someone goes to the pen, right? Maybe. I still think a six-man rotation could make a lot of sense. That, or I assume Chatwood ends up in the bullpen as a long man.

Next: Maples deserves another shot with the Cubs

But that’s another story for another day. For now, all eyes on South Bend, Indiana Monday night when Yu Darvish takes the ball in hopes of getting back to the big league club.

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