MILWAUKEE — The first major step in Yu Darvish’s return from a triceps injury could come Tuesday in Milwaukee, when the megabucks right-hander is expected to throw from a mound for the first time since going on the disabled list three weeks ago.
He has been playing catch on flat ground for more than a week and had one more of those sessions scheduled Monday before heading to Milwaukee, manager Joe Maddon said.
Darvish, the centerpiece of the Cubs’ offseason, has had a disappointing start since signing a six-year, $126 million deal in February. The four-time All-Star is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP and has pitched out of the fifth inning just three times in eight starts.
He hasn’t pitched since May 20 after going on the 10-day DL for the second time in May. The first time was for the flu.
Depending on how he fares Tuesday, a timeline for a return could start to develop. Maddon said over the weekend he wasn’t sure if Darvish, who will need a minor-league rehab assignment, would be ready to return before the All-Star break in mid-July.
“We’ll see how well it goes [Tuesday] and see how he feels,” Maddon said. “It’s not even about [Tuesday]. It’s how you feel the next day that really matters.”
Through Sunday, the Cubs were 11-4 since putting Darvish on the DL, with his replacement in the rotation, Mike Montgomery, going 2-0 in three starts while allowing just two runs in 17‰ innings (1.02 ERA).
Cubs setup ace Carl Edwards Jr. is expected to start playing catch Tuesday, the first time he has been allowed to throw since shoulder soreness landed him on the DL more than two weeks ago.
Edwards has been pain-free for about a week while being limited to strengthening exercises.
“But he’s been feeling really good,” Maddon said. “Once we get this rolling, being a relief pitcher, it doesn’t take as long to get him back up here.”
Riding the A train
One of the reasons the Cubs have survived, even thrived, without Edwards and with Montgomery in the rotation is the success of a taxi squad of relievers acquired in the last 13 months as minor-leaguers or waiver claims.
Luke Farrell, Randy Rosario, Justin Hancock and Cory Mazzoni have combined for 42 innings over 30 appearances, going 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 43 strikeouts.
“One of the bigger differences this year is the other pitchers that have been chosen in the offseason to ride that train between here and [Class] AAA [for depth] have done really well,” Maddon said. “And there’s a lot more to choose from, too.”
Mazzoni was sent back to Class AAA Iowa on Monday after making two appearances over the weekend against the Pirates, including two innings (43 pitches) Sunday.
Right-hander Anthony Bass, who signed as a minor-league free agent in December, shuttled in from Iowa on Monday to take his place.
Eddie Butler (groin) was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Bass.