Padres’ Yu Darvish a ‘good influence’ and a ‘superstar,’ Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki says
Suzuki and Darvish exchanged jerseys before the Cubs’ 7-5 win over the Padres on Wednesday.
SAN DIEGO — Padres right-hander Yu Darvish couldn’t help but get in at least one jab when he welcomed Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki this week:
“Hey, you like the warm weather here?”
In free agency this spring, Suzuki had chosen the Cubs, Darvish’s former team, over the Padres. And the weather at Wrigley Field this past month thanked him with wind, rain and bitter cold.
The Cubs’ three game series against the Padres this week gave Suzuki and Darvish a chance to catch up in person. Before the Cubs’ 7-5 victory Wednesday, they exchanged jerseys in front of a swarm of cameras.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to hear Japanese,” Suzuki said with a smile through interpreter Toy Matsushita, “so it was relieving.”
As much as Darvish may have wanted Suzuki to join him in sunny San Diego, Cubs fans also have Darvish to thank. He was one of the players Suzuki leaned on for insight as the highly touted Japanese free agent weighed his options this spring.
Darvish had made the same transition from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB a decade ago, and he’d spent three seasons with the Cubs, a club Suzuki had interest in from the beginning.
“Not just a good influence on me, but I feel that [Darvish is] a superstar,” Suzuki said. “And I’m very honored just by the fact that I know him.”
In addition to Darvish, Suzuki sought advice from Yoshimoto Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama before he signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Cubs.
Former Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t have the same kind of support system of Japanese players in MLB when he went from NPB to the Cubs’ organization in 2013.
Fujikawa, 32 at the time, saw himself as kind of an older brother to the younger players in the organization such as right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
“Now I ask them to please take care of Seiya,” Fujikawa said after talking with Hendricks, now a veteran, on the field before the game.
Suzuki didn’t play in the series finale as the Cubs ease him back into action after he turned his right ankle on a base Monday. He left that game early because of soreness and pinch-hit in the ninth inning Tuesday.
Even if he was fully healthy, Suzuki wouldn’t have faced Darvish, whose next start is scheduled for Friday against the Braves in Atlanta.
“I’ve only seen him pitch on TV, never in a real game,” said Suzuki, whose NPB career came after Darvish left for MLB. “So I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to come soon. But by then, I want to make sure I can get a hit off him because at this moment, he’s going to get me out.”
The Cubs face the Padres again next month at Wrigley Field.
On this week’s trip, Darvish gave Suzuki restaurant recommendations in San Diego. And after the initial banter, Darvish did assure Suzuki that Chicago would get warmer than it was last week.
“So I’m looking forward to it,” Suzuki said, “but also, at the same time, I’m kind of worried if it’s true or not.”