Yu ready? Darvish eyes quick return to rotation after impressive ‘‘sim’’ game

SHARE Yu ready? Darvish eyes quick return to rotation after impressive ‘‘sim’’ game

Darvish (shown with pitching coach Jim Hickey between “innings” of Wednesday’s simulated game) believes he needs only one minor-league rehab start before returning to the Cubs’ rotation. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The way right-hander Yu Darvish looked during a simulated game Wednesday, the Cubs think he might be ready to make a rehab start Monday.

The way Darvish felt, he might need . . . what?

‘‘One,’’ Darvish, who has been out with soreness in his right triceps, said before his translator could deliver the question in Japanese. ‘‘Just one.’’

Barring a setback and assuming Darvish has a good handle on his needs, that rehab start — probably at Class A South Bend — would put him on track for a return to the Cubs’ rotation June 30 or July 1 against the Twins at Wrigley Field.

So much for speculation that Darvish might be out until after the All-Star break. A return June 30 or July 1 would be two weeks before the break.

Darvish (1-3, 4.95 ERA) already has spent more than a month on the disabled list in a season that hasn’t come close to meeting expectations since he signed a six-year, $126 million contract.

‘‘I felt good,’’ Darvish said of the 51-pitch simulated game, adding he felt especially sharp with his fastball and slider. ‘‘There was some anxiety beforehand, but it turned out to be better than I expected.’’

Darvish, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2015 after initially being shut down that spring training for a triceps injury, twice referred to his elbow when talking about his current process.

When asked about the source of his ‘‘anxiety,’’ he said: ‘‘Definitely the elbow aspect. The anxiety came from whether I could throw at 100 percent condition. That was the main part of the anxiety.’’


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With a fresh start, the Cubs are optimistic Darvish can provide a big boost to a rotation that has performed especially well in the last three weeks (2.64 ERA). And they think the time off will be a benefit by the time he gets to August and September.

‘‘He looked free and easy,’’ said general manager Jed Hoyer, who joined president Theo Epstein, manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey in overseeing the session. ‘‘He was throwing all his pitches. He ended with a split, so I felt like if he’s doing that, he feels pretty good.’’

‘‘Outstanding,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘You can’t ask for anything more. He looked that good.’’

Hoyer said the Cubs won’t rush Darvish through the next phase. And they won’t finalize the schedule for his 60- to 65-pitch rehab start until evaluating him Thursday.

Draft notice

The Cubs signed their first-round draft pick, Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner, for the allotted slot bonus of just more than $2.7 million. Hoerner, the No. 24 overall pick, is expected to be assigned to short-season Class A Eugene.

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