Yu Darvish more relaxed, confident as he restarts Cubs career with spring debut

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Yu Darvish early in camp | John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. – So far it has been a different Yu Darvish in Cubs camp a year after the worst season of his career, from interactions with teammates and media to sharp bullpen work five months after “clean up” surgery on his elbow.

His next big step comes Tuesday afternoon when he gets his first taste of pitching in a game since May 20.

He’s expected to throw two innings against the Diamondbacks in a Cactus League home game at Sloan Park, starting at 2:05 p.m. central time (cubs.com radio).

“We’re all eager to watch this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He appears to be much more relaxed, definitely into the flow of things a lot more easily this year. He’s throwing really well. The workouts have been fantastic.”

Darvish spent part of Monday hanging out with pal and former big-league pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa, with Maddon, the former Angels coach, joining the conversation at one point with the former Angels pitcher.

“Just a really nice, relaxed setting,” Maddon said. “I could see the confidence.”

Unlike last year, Darvish is making a point to speak English when conducting interviews with U.S. media this season.

And he has admitted his confidence level waned at times during a 2018 season that began with a late signing of that six-year, $126 million deal and continued with a rough start the first six weeks of the season before eventually ending after a long injury saga with the elbow.

This year?

“Way different than last year,” he said, “because I know [the beat writers], I know teammates well. Now I feel like my place is here. I feel more comfortable, and I have more confidence than last year.”

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