Cubs seek answers to $310 million questions in coming week against Braves, Reds
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Flu-stricken Yu Darvish remains on track for a return from the disabled list Tuesday, but whether he looks any healthier as a pitcher is the bigger issue.
Meanwhile, right fielder Jason Heyward won’t be activated Monday, when he’s eligible to return from the concussion DL. However, he’ll travel with the team to Atlanta and remain day-to-day during the weeklong trip, which also has a visit to Cincinnati.
They are the $310 million questions this week for the Cubs, who will try to carry the success from a 5-1 homestand against the Marlins and White Sox into a four-game run against the Braves, the surprising leaders of the National League East.
“He’s still working on the whole thing right now,” manager Joe Maddon said of Heyward, who hit his head on the wall trying to catch Dexter Fowler’s walk-off homer May 6 in St. Louis. “I’m still waiting to hear back from the doctors. There’s nothing new to report necessarily.”
If Heyward’s trip to the DL was a surprise — it came two days after the incident — Darvish’s was more unusual. The flu bug knocked him out of his scheduled start against the Marlins and prompted the Cubs to put him on the 10-day DL.
Darvish, who threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Saturday, told Japanese media Sunday that he still was congested and coughing during his bullpen but felt much better.
He cautioned that he still might not be 100 percent Tuesday but that he vowed to “try to do my best to help the team win.”
Darvish is eligible to return Monday, but the team pushed him back a day, using the recent day off to move Jose Quintana up one slot in the rotation on his regular rest.
Among other things, it assures that Darvish, who was booed by the home fans when he left the mound in the fifth inning of his last start, avoids making his next start at Wrigley Field.
“I know that that’s going to be easy to look at and say that we did do that [for that reason],” Maddon said. “But we were just trying to gather as much time as we can coming off of being ill. We just took advantage of the schedule.”
Darvish’s inability to fight through adverse moments has been a theme in his first season after signing a six-year, $126 million contract. He has failed to pitch out of the fifth inning in four of six starts, struggling at times with the Cubs’ highly detailed pitching game plans and unraveling at other times after mistakes such as a two-out walk to the pitcher or a balk.
Maddon said he isn’t concerned about Darvish’s mental state.
“The guy’s been good for so many years; he has an outstanding arm,” Maddon said. “I think sometimes he gets a little bit speeded up in what he’s doing. He and I have talked about that. But there’s too much success there for me to be worried about that. He would not be in the position he is if that were in fact true.”
Maddon said the struggles of Darvish, 31, are similar to other pitchers, including veterans, he has managed and coached in his career.
“It’s just having the skill set in-game to control moments better,” Maddon said.