PITTSBURGH — Whether Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish somehow gets extra motivation from Alex Rodriguez ripping him Sunday night or becomes inspired by the team’s support, one thing he’s not is angry.
“Quite frankly, he took it better than I did,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who called Rodriguez’s riff on Darvish’s rehab process “plastic,” “premeditated” and “an ambush.”
Darvish, who had supportive conversations with the front office and Maddon since the comments, took the high road when talking to reporters after a 35-pitch bullpen session Tuesday at PNC Park.
“I get mad,” Darvish insisted, through his interpreter, “especially when my son doesn’t brush his teeth or when he’s hiding or he’s playing games when he’s not supposed to.
During Sunday night’s ESPN broadcast of the Cubs-Cardinals game, player-turned-broadcaster Rodriguez said that Darvish has been allowed to “police and take control of his own rehab” and that as a result of that – and Darvish’s continued presence around the team – “it’s not good inside that clubhouse right now.”
Maddon fumed talking about it before Tuesday’s game, suggesting it was a made-for-TV moment planned before the ESPN crew walked through the clubhouse door.
“It was definitely not extemporaneous,” Maddon said. “This was rehearsed for at least a week.”
He and general manager Jed Hoyer said Rodriguez isn’t around the team enough to know much about the Cubs’ clubhouse.
“I think this is actually one of the closer-knit clubhouses we’ve had,” Hoyer said. “We know the dynamic, and we know Yu fits into that well. That’s all we’re concerned about.”
Hoyer scoffed at the suggestion Darvish’s process is anything but a collaborative effort.
“We’re very much aligned on his rehab, and the idea that we’d sort of hand the rehab process off to the player is something I don’t really understand,” Hoyer said. “That’s not something we would do, and that’s not something that’s happening right now with Darvish.”
What’s certain is that the process has gone on far longer than the Cubs anticipated after MRI results in May were clean and Darvish’s results in a simulated game and rehab start in June looked so promising. A subsequent visit to his orthopedist in Texas resulted in a diagnosis of an impingement in the surgically repaired elbow and a cortisone shot.
Starter Kyle Hendricks said teammates “love” having Darvish around the team while he rehabs his elbow – the same way the team handled Kyle Schwarber’s season-long knee rehab two years ago.
“Everything’s fine in the clubhouse for sure,” Hendricks said. “We’re all behind him and the work he’s doing. We see it day in and day out the work he’s doing to get back.”
Darvish, who hasn’t pitched since May 20, said he was “excited” by how well Tuesday’s third bullpen session since the setback went and thought his next step might be a simulated game.
“For the first time in two months, I felt nothing from the first pitch of playing catch to the last ball of the bullpen session,” he said, adding he threw all his pitches.
There’s still no timeline for a return as Maddon preached patience and said a potential Darvish return would be “a great acquisition.”
Meanwhile, Darvish said he got a hug from teammate Anthony Rizzo on Tuesday.
“He told me, `I love you,’ “ Darvish said, smiling. “But, then again, I’m not sure if he actually means it.”