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Cubs’ Yu Darvish ready to return Saturday with workload to be monitored closely down stretch

The right-hander, who has a 2.93 ERA and just three walks since the All-Star break, said he has been dealing with occasional forearm tightness since July 3.

Seattle Mariners v Chicago Cubs
Yu Darvish (right) with Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi on the field before Monday’s game at Wrigley Field.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — The day after a normal-intensity bullpen session, right-hander Yu Darvish was cleared to return Saturday from the forearm tightness that caused him to be scratched from his start Sunday at Wrigley Field.

Darvish, who has a 2.93 ERA since the All-Star break, said he’s pain-free and ready for what would be five more starts the rest of the regular season.

He called the issue minor, but said the tightness first arose during a start July 3 and that he had been managing it.

The discomfort often showed up in the fifth or sixth innings during his starts the last two months.

That also was by far his best stretch of pitching since signing with the Cubs before last season. Darvish has walked only three batters since the break.

“I was dealing with that,” said Darvish, who isn’t sure what kind of workload limits he will have moving forward, but suggested it might involve skipping a bullpen session or two as needed.

“The big things is just to be smart about his workload and continue to monitor how he’s feeling and where his pitch counts are,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “He’s already 112 [innings] over where he was last year. The more we can monitor that, the more we can feel the pace of the game — and if there’s an opportunity to get him out of there sooner in a situation, it’d be great, just to buy some extra innings down the stretch when we know we’re going to need it.”

Darvish threw only 40 innings last season before being shut down with elbow problems but said, “I’m not concerned about anything. The last 13 years I’ve pitched a lot of innings, so it’s not a big thing.”

What’s the best maintenance and care plan for the forearm the rest of the way?

“Just take a lot of medicine,” he said.

Optimistic Kimbrel

Closer Craig Kimbrel, who went on the injured list Thursday because of a sore elbow, said he’s optimistic he’ll be able to return when eligible Thursday in San Diego or close to that date.

He hasn’t thrown in the last few days but expects to ramp up quickly to game condition.

“It’s very frustrating,” Kimbrel said of his second IL stint since joining the team in late June. “But I’ve still got time to let this thing heal up and have a good push at the end of the year.”