MESA, Ariz. — With Opening Day just a week away, Yu Darvish has seemingly hit a slight bump in his comeback effort.
The Cubs right-hander was prematurely removed in the fifth inning against the Mariners on Tuesday after manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy appeared to examine his pitching hand. He later revealed a dime-sized blister on his ring finger.
Darvish, who said he wasn’t in pain until the skin ripped on his last pitch, assured fans this isn’t something to worry about.
“I didn’t want to hurt my elbow and shoulder [by overcompensating],” he said. “That’s why I said, ‘I don’t want to throw.’ ”
Darvish said he doesn’t believe the blister will disrupt his throwing program. He plans to treat it with a laser and cream and will test it by playing catch Wednesday. He expects to throw in a bullpen session Thursday.
“I don’t feel any pain,” he said. “I’ll be good for my next outing.”
This isn’t the first time Darvish has dealt with a blister on his throwing hand. In his 2013 season debut with the Rangers against the Astros, he pitched several innings with a blister before blowing a perfect game on the final out of the ninth inning. The injury didn’t cost him any starts.
Last season, after signing a six-year, $126 million deal in February, Darvish made only eight starts for the Cubs, going 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA before he was sidelined with a triceps injury in May.
Eager to shed the “soft” label after missing the majority of last season, he has come to spring training with an improved outlook. With Jon Lester already named the Opening Day starter, Darvish is expected to be the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation, though Maddon said they still haven’t decided on a final rotation order.
Overall, Darvish was pleased with his fourth outing of the spring. Against the Mariners, he allowed five hits and one earned run in 4⅔ innings while walking two and striking out six.
“Fastball command was good today,” he said. “The slider wasn’t really good, but my fastball has been my best pitch this spring.”
Darvish threw 88 pitches and is aiming for 100 in his next game.
“Then I’ll be ready for the opening series,” he said.
Morrow takes next step
One day after closer Brandon Morrow threw his first bullpen session since he had surgery on his pitching elbow in November, the right-hander said he feels “just fine.”
“It’s a great step,” he said. “It was just another bullpen. After a few pitches, you feel like you’re back in your rhythm.”
Morrow, who’s expected to miss the first month of the season while he builds up his arm strength, said he’s on a standard throwing program, though the Cubs will be more cautious given the circumstances. He’ll play catch Wednesday before throwing in the bullpen Thursday.
Relievers Steve Cishek or Carl Edwards Jr. will likely fill in for the time being. Pedro Strop is another possible option, although he’s currently out with a hamstring injury.