The biggest takeaway from yesterday’s game was not whether the Cubs won or lost (it’s spring training, for the love of Mike), nor how effective Yu Darvish pitched. Darvish summed up all that mattered with two words yesterday: “No pain.”
“I’m so excited,” he said after pitching 1⅓ innings of the Cubs’ 5-4 loss. “This is like my first outing in my life. I’m not throwing the last seven months, so I was excited.”
So, the first major hurdle is cleared and Cubs fans near and far can wait to see how he is feeling this morning. I wouldn’t anticipate any issues. The bulked-up righty has been working hard all offseason, and like the rest of his teammates, came to Arizona with a chip on his shoulder. But while his blue brethren are bound and determined to show that their early playoff exit was a fluke, Darvish is out to prove he is worth every penny the Cubs invested in him, and then some.
He’s the key to erasing a lot of bad 2018 memories for the entire organization. If Darvish can make his 32 starts and pitch to his capabilities, everybody wins and the Cubs will likely take back the Central Division title from the Brewers.
As the pain of last year slowly fades with winter’s eventual thaw, Darvish has been a happy camper, if not a playful one. No longer sewn at the hip to an interpreter, the lefty speaks more than decent English and will usually pepper any interview with a laugh or two.
“I think interpreter’s expensive for the organization, right?” he said with a laugh. “Good for me, too. I have a good experience with you guys and I can use more English.
“You guys understand what I’m thinking from my mouth and not with an interpreter. So that means a lot for me.”
That means a lot to the Cubs and to the team’s fans because even before last season’s elbow injury, Darvish seemed to lack the confidence and the killer instinct to be a top-of-rotation starter. Many Cubs fans called him soft. That’s not the case anymore if three weeks of Arizona practice is any indication.
“I feel I’m smiling more than the last seven years,” he said. “I think so. Healthy and I learned a lot of things from last year. Before, I worried about the future. I’m scared for the future. But now I’m living, like, now. That makes me more comfortable. I feel more happy.”
New year, new Yu. Let’s hope so.
Cubs News & Notes
- Alas, another Achilles Last Stand article about the Cubs. It seems every writer has a nit to pick with the organization on an almost daily basis. Nothing left to do but to let the games play out. That’s not a link to the great Led Zeppelin song, but this is.
- Jon Lester has every right to throw daggers at the new change-of-pace rules. If you love the game, what’s the rush?
- Kris Bryant would “absolutely” be interested in signing an extension with the Cubs if the terms were favorable. Say, like Nolan Arenado terms.
- The Cubs were hoping for political change in the Wrigleywille area during yesterday’s elections, but incumbent alderman Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward looks like he will retain his seat. The Ricketts family supported Heather Way Kitzes in the open 47th Ward race, but Matt Martin will get the victory there.
- Infielder David Bote, who was beaned Sunday by Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, has been cleared to return to the lineup as soon as today.
- Right fielder Jason Heyward was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game because of a personal matter. His availability for today is also uncertain. With Bryce Harper still available, let the trade rumors begin. Wouldn’t you know it? The Giants’ pursuit of Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury picked up again right about the same time. Shame on me.
- Should the Cubs be worried if Harper signs with the Dodgers?
- Mike Montgomery said his left shoulder felt fine after he threw a 30-pitch bullpen session.
- Relief pitcher Tony Barnette is grateful for the experience of playing in Japan for six years.
- Willson Contreras got into a little bit of a tiff with actress Pamela Anderson over his native Venezuela yesterday.
Spring Training Notes
The Phillies are growing very concerned that Harper would rather play for the Dodgers than in Philadelphia. I’m no expert, but when the organization’s top executives left Las Vegas last week without a signed deal, only to watch the Dodgers’ entourage arrive shortly thereafter, it should have been obvious that he’s not very keen on manning right field for the Phillies for the next 10 years.
And then there was this from Yankees beat writer Randy Miller of NJ.com…
For what it’s worth, my source who is close to Bryce Harper tells me #Dodgers and #Cubs were 1st choices all along and he prefers not to sign with #Phillies. I’ve been hearing all winter that Harper does not want to play for Gabe Kapler due to analytics and quirky personality
— Randy Miller (@RandyJMiller) February 26, 2019
94 WIP Sports Radio’s Angelo Cataldi claimed that a potential deal in terms of dollars and years was agreed to by the Phillies and Harper, but the deal was held up by Scott Boras’s demand for an opt-out clause. The agent was said to be insisting on adding a three-year opt-out to the deal, which was allegedly rejected by Philadelphia GM Matt Klentak.
I’m not entirely opposed to Harper crushing the hearts of the Phillies and their fans, are you?
With more teams entering the race for Harper, his free agency could potentially drag into March. Negotiations have gotten so ridiculous that even the band Smash Mouth claims to have inside information.
MLB may be willing to abandon the pitch clock for regular season games until at least 2022 under a new proposal. The MLBPA would have to instead agree to allow baseball to implement a three-batter-minimum rule for pitchers and roster-size changes in 2020.
New Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is not opposed to the concept of using an opener.
Sadly, this is scenario we may have to get used to.
Addison Russell, playing his game in front of #Cubs fans since Sept. 16, receives mostly cheers from the crowd.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 26, 2019
By no means do I feel that Addison Russell deserves the kind of support that seems genuinely misplaced here. He is not a victim. The victims are the women in his life and his children.
The Cubs organization has deemed that Russell warrants a third chance despite actions that prove otherwise. Maybe the front office has truly vetted the entire situation and believes Russell is better served by not having the disruption that comes with being cut or traded. And though that may be true, the adulation here is a little tough to swallow. I certainly hope he changes his life and becomes a better man, and more importantly, a better father. But he still has a long way to go.
Does he deserve encouragement? Yes. But that should come from the organization in private, his family, his psychological support staff, and of course from Melisa Reidy, at least at this juncture of his rehabilitation process. Forgiving him before it is truly earned will only enable him.
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Lost in the Light by Bahamas. Powerful lyrics that might mean a lot to Russell. “If someone could see me now let them see you.”