Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish feeling and looking healthy

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

The stat line may not have looked too pretty in Yu Darvish’s first start of Spring Training for the Chicago Cubs, but the immediate takeaways were positive nonetheless.

The Chicago CubsYu Darvish walked four and lasted just 1 1/3 innings on Tuesday afternoon, but he also did not allow a hit, and the velocity on his fastball seems to have returned.

The 32-year-old routinely sat between 94-96 with the fastball and mixed in a full array of cutters and breaking balls to boot, emerging from the outing with a clean bill of health and rejuvenated mentally.

Speaking to reporters without an interpreter–a first for him–Darvish made it clear that he felt strong on the mound, and that his focus is solely on the present. He also iterated that he is happier and smiling more, which seems to be a marked departure from past seasons for the typically reserved Darvish:

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Control issues have followed Darvish throughout his career. After all, he does possess a 9.1 percent walk rate for his career. But typically, it is the command of the fastball that has caused Darvish to struggle in getting ahead in the count.

This was not the case on Tuesday. While Darvish was fairly consistent in peppering the strike zone with the fastball, he could not do the same with his slider. As a result, Darvish only recorded a single swing and miss on the outing.

Still, it is important to remember that this was his first game action since August of last year, when he made a single rehab start for Class A South Bend before being shut down for the rest of the season. To come out of this start with confidence and feeling healthy is just the first step in what the Cubs hope will be a massive leap forward for Darvish in 2019.

And while some fans may choose not to take any stake in Darvish’s new outlook and sudden determination to use his English for the first time, his determinism and mental state are as important as his physical health at this stage of his career.

This is the same pitcher that completely dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cubs in the National League playoffs in 2017 before totally bombing out in the World Series. The same guy that came back from Tommy John and posted a 3.41 ERA in 2016 before getting hammered by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS.

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Darvish has already experienced multiple elbow surgeries and repeated playoff disappointments. In spite of this, he looks as poised as ever to rediscover his old form.

So while it may not necessarily have looked pretty on Tuesday afternoon, the velocity and optimism with which Darvish left his outing are inherently positive signs for both himself and the Cubs.