On a night one high-performance starter struggled and one struggling young starter excelled, the bigger spectacle at Wrigley Field was all about two starters who won’t throw a pitch this week in Chicago.
Jake and the mistake? OK, that’s probably unfair.
“Yeah,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon agreed. “Just give it some time.”
But make no mistake about this: The Phillies’ 6-1 victory Tuesday against the Cubs in the opener of a three-game series was mere background noise for the celebrated return of Jake Arrieta, who received a standing ovation early in the game after a rousing video-board tribute to his historic Cubs run.
That came a few hours after Yu Darvish — the big-money free agent the Cubs essentially chose over Arrieta — played catch from 90 feet as he continued a deliberate, cautious throwing program to return from his second disabled-list stretch in three weeks.
The Cubs have set no timetable for a possible return from the triceps inflammation. Darvish hasn’t pitched in more than two weeks, suggesting a minor-league rehab assignment of at least a start or two will be required before he returns to the rotation.
“There’s no finish line. I’m hoping that it’s not too long,” Maddon said. “But I think during the course of this week, we’ll have a better idea of what we think the finish line [might be].”
Meanwhile, fan-favorite Arrieta — the 2015 Cy Young winner and 2016 World Series hero — is off to a 5-3 start with a 2.66 ERA for the upstart Phillies, drawing obvious favorable comparisons to the four-time All-Star the Cubs signed to a six-year, $126 million deal instead.
But for all of Darvish’s early adversity with his new team, including fifth-inning woes and a DL stay for the flu, Maddon stressed, again, the fairness of having patience before burying Darvish in Arrieta’s scoreboard highlights.
“I could not be happier for Jake,” Maddon said. “He’s in a good place right now. He’s doing extremely well.
“But people have a tendency to jump to conclusions in this game, and in life in general. Just give it time. Hopefully, they’re both going to have the same kind of numbers after the next three or four years. I’m a big Jake fan, but, yes, it’s way too early to jump to conclusions.”
• Watch Cubs pay tribute to Jake Arrieta during his return to Wrigley Field
• Jake Arrieta returns to Wrigley, pays tribute to former Cubs teammates, fans
Meanwhile, on this night, Kyle Hendricks struggled for the Cubs, giving up five early runs and making it through just five innings. Phillies starter Zach Eflin (2-2) pitched into the eighth inning — the first time in a month he has pitched more than 4 2/3 innings — before allowing a run.
MRI for Russell
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who left Sunday’s game after suffering a sprained thumb on a fifth-inning swing, had an MRI late Tuesday afternoon after the soreness persisted longer than hoped.
Results were expected Wednesday. Russell said after Sunday’s game he thought he might miss only one or two games.
Right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., the setup ace who has been on the DL the last week because of shoulder inflammation, is pain-free, the team said, as he continues a strengthening program for the shoulder.
The team is taking a cautious approach with the hard-throwing Edwards and is not ready to announce a timetable for him to start playing catch again.