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Getting to know Yu part of the process for Cubs, Darvish as DL return beckons

Darvish high fives South Bend teammates during Monday's rehab start.

LOS ANGELES — Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish said he can tell people recognize him when he walks around Los Angeles, though nobody has approached him.

The Cubs, on the other hand, still are trying to figure out who he is and, more immediately, what he’s able to do for them on a pitcher’s mound anytime soon.

Two days after he made an impressive-looking rehab start Monday at Class A South Bend, the $126 million right-hander played catch at Dodger Stadium and still didn’t seem to have a sense of whether he can return from the disabled list this weekend or make another minor-league stint — or maybe even delay the next start, wherever it is.

“I don’t feel too bad,” he said through an interpreter Wednesday, before the Cubs’ rotation took another hit in a 7-5 loss to the Dodgers as Kyle Hendricks gave up two home runs in just 2 2/3 innings, the shortest start of his career.

The Cubs are holding Saturday and Sunday open for possible return dates for Darvish, who after eight starts went on the disabled list because of triceps tendinitis.

“I think we’ll have more clarity [Thursday],” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who anticipates a decision on that next start in the hours after Darvish throws a between-starts bullpen session instead of the customary next day.

“More than anything, we want him to come back as Yu Darvish. We don’t want him to come back and be a lesser version of that and feel like he’s got to pitch around anything.”

A big part of that, of course, is Darvish trusting his body.

He looked a lot like himself Monday and has gotten a continuous green light to proceed with his comeback work.

“In terms of strength and endurance, I’m fine,” he said.

But Darvish reiterated what he said after the start: He didn’t feel 100 percent, acknowledging he felt something in the triceps, near the elbow he had reconstructed in 2015.

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“Any pitcher would have some sort of tightness,” he said. “It’s just that.”

The Cubs seem confident he’ll be ready to pitch again, somewhere. Manager Joe Maddon pointed out that some soreness on a comeback trail after a layoff often is a good sign, as long as it’s not actual pain.

“It means you’re activating an area that had not been activated and building up strength,” the manager said.

But Maddon also has made it clear in recent days that he and the staff still are getting to know Darvish. Hoyer suggested that comments about tightness or not being 100 percent could be subject to lost-in-translation nuance.

That, as much as anything, might be the next step in the process for the four-time All-Star in his first few months with a new team — after struggling in his eight starts before the injury (1-4, 4.95 ERA).

Darvish acknowledged as much when asked about whether the time on the DL has had any added benefits to his ability to settle in or get comfortable in his new surroundings.

“Yeah, mentally it’s been a good time to just have time to reflect,” he said.

Being in Los Angeles seemed to enhance the reflective time. It’s where he said his passion for baseball was reignited last summer after a trade from the Rangers to the Dodgers, with whom he lost Game 7 of the World Series and with whom former teammates, such as Clayton Kershaw, went out of their way to embrace him.

“The Dodgers really took care of me, and there’s some things that I haven’t done yet that I hoped I was able to do,” Darvish said of his disappointment in not pitching during this series.

Three years ago, he said, he told his wife he might consider retiring after the end of his Rangers contract in 2017.

“But joining the Dodgers, I had a chance to really find myself and be around a very supportive group of people,” he said. “The baseball was really fun for me. It was really fun with the Dodgers.”

And in Chicago?

“I feel like this team has a lot of fun, too,” he said. “I feel like they’ve included me with that.”