ARLINGTON, Texas — At least it wasn’t physical.
For better or worse, that was the Cubs’ takeaway from Yu Darvish’s emotionally charged face-plant of a season debut against his former teammates.
“I saw just an amped-up version of him, obviously a guy who was excited to be back here pitching in Texas and excited to pitch against his old team,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said.
Darvish admitted that his first start back in Texas since the Rangers, his original big-league team, traded him in 2017 was a big deal, and catcher Willson Contreras said he saw the emotions in Darvish’s body language during his seven-walk start that didn’t survive the third inning.
“You saw the joking around in the first inning with [Rangers shortstop] Elvis Andrus,” Hottovy said. “And that’s great. He’s obviously comfortable with these guys. But there’s also a focus factor that we need to make sure that we’re in on.”
Whether a function of lacking focus, Darvish’s pace slowed at times, and his delivery sped up at times. Hottovy said that will be addressed with Darvish and Contreras between starts.
“We’ll have cues between him and Willson to kind of remind them, ‘Hey, pick the tempo up,’ ’’ Hottovy said.
Darvish, who might be the most important pitcher in the Cubs’ plans this year, said he had no physical excuses and blamed himself after the game. Hottovy said he’s confident that a simple change of venue will make a difference for Darvish, who looked good throughout the spring.
His next outing is Thursday in Atlanta against the Braves, the defending National League East champs.
“You’ll get back to seeing maybe a more focused version of him,” Hottovy said. “There were so many external factors here with being from here, he played here, family here, old teammates — all those things play in.
“I just think taking Yu out of this environment is going to help him get to a place where he’ll be more focused and ready to roll [against] a new team.”
What about Edwards?
Speaking of key guys on the pitching staff, setup man Carl Edwards Jr. expects his second appearance to look a lot different than his season debut Saturday, when he allowed an infield hit (on a bad throw by David Bote), a walk and a game-turning homer to Joey Gallo in the eighth.
Hottovy said that, like Darvish, Edwards seemed to lose focus of “mechanical keys” on a night he pitched for the first time in a game that counted with his new hesitation move.
Whether it got in his head when Rangers manager Chris Woodward suggested to the ump that the move was illegal, Edwards’ sharpness and velocity were down.
“But we’ll see how the next outing goes,” Edwards said. “The velo will probably be up. I’ve got a lot of anger in me right now.”
Q and the Brew Crew
Manager Joe Maddon confirmed that Jose Quintana — who pitched four strong innings in relief of Darvish — will make his season starting debut Friday in the opener of a three-game series in Milwaukee. Cole Hamels and Kyle Hendricks will follow him.
Quintana is 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA in six career starts at Miller Park (6-2, 1.62 ERA in 11 starts overall against the Brewers).