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Cubs shut down Yu Darvish for season after MRI reveals stress reaction in elbow

DETROIT — The Cubs have been without Yu Darvish since May.

Now they can get on with the rest of their season without the drama that has surrounded his comeback attempt.

The day after his minor-league rehab start was aborted after one inning because of more pain near his elbow, Darvish had an arthrogram MRI exam Monday that revealed a stress-reaction bone bruise at the back of the elbow, along with triceps inflammation diagnosed in May.

He has been shut down for the rest of the season because of the stress reaction, which often can be a precursor to a stress fracture if not treated with rest.

Darvish was forced to stop Sunday's minor-league rehab start after only one inning because of elbow pain.

“We’re really disappointed. But at least we have some clarity and can move forward,” team president Theo Epstein said. “And there was some good news with the testing: The [ulnar collateral ligament] that was reconstructed with Tommy John [surgery in 2015] looked really good and is in place and stable.

“We’re really disappointed with the stress reaction and that his season’s over, but at last the UCL is intact and doing well.”

Epstein said he expected Darvish to be ready to open next spring training at full strength.

Darvish, 32, made only eight starts after signing a six-year, $126 million deal in February, going 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, before the triceps issue arose.

Team officials said multiple times during Darvish’s twice-derailed rehab that they weren’t counting on him for the stretch drive.

But Darvish said last week he expected to return and hoped to “come back stronger than ever.” And manager Joe Maddon expressed hope his return could provide the same kind of boost as a midseason acquisition.

Where the Cubs go next for help with their shaky rotation is at least murky.

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The addition in July of left-hander Cole Hamels has resulted in an impressive four-start debut (0.72 ERA). And on Wednesday, struggling ace Jon Lester will try to back up his best start in more than two months.

But Darvish’s rotation replacement, Mike Montgomery (3.08 starting ERA since then), is on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. And Tyler Chatwood isn’t trusted to start after a rough spot start in Montgomery’s place Saturday.

Maddon said “we’re working on” coming up with a starter for Montgomery’s spot Friday against the Reds.

After adding All-Star infielder Daniel Murphy in a waiver-wire trade with the Nationals on Tuesday, Epstein didn’t sound optimistic about pulling off something like that to address the rotation.

“It’s never easy this time of year to find just the right fit,” he said. “It’s always a possibility. But I also think several of our starters are trending in the right direction, and the most likely solution is internal.”

That includes the promise of Lester and Kyle Hendricks, who started Tuesday, pitching to career form down the stretch. And it includes initial signs that Montgomery’s soreness will be short-term.

Montgomery said he felt fine playing catch from 90 feet Tuesday afternoon and planned to “air it out” from 120 feet Wednesday and build from there. Barring a setback, he might be able to return close to the time rosters expand Sept. 1.

“Obviously, we’re concerned for him, but we’re optimistic that he’s going to return to full strength in a relatively short period of time,” Epstein said.

With Darvish, the Cubs at least finally have some certainty after months of fits, starts, speculation and criticism from such sources as ESPN broadcaster Alex Rodriguez.

“It’s been a very difficult year obviously for him,” Maddon said, “to have to endure the physical and maybe some of the emotional or mental pain that’s been placed on him, too. We’re on his side. We just want it to get well.”