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Cubs to Darvish: We need Yu

All anyone needs to know about what the Cubs think of their starting rotation at midseason was summed up in manager Joe Maddon’s comments Wednesday about their two highest-paid pitchers.

One involved the great care the Cubs have taken to preserve ace Jon Lester’s strength and high performance level by not adding to his workload before the All-Star break.

The other sounded like a desperate plea to offseason centerpiece Yu Darvish to provide some second-half assistance in the Cubs’ playoff efforts, if not a reliable answer or two regarding his fitness to pitch at all.

“We had a great conversation,” Maddon said of Darvish, who still had not thrown a baseball five days after receiving a cortisone shot near his irritable elbow. “I’ve not known him for a long time, but it’s really easy for me to speak with him, and I think for him to speak with me. So it’s straight up, we’re trying to devise a plan to get him back out there as soon as possible.”


“It’s just a communicative thing: ‘How you feeling?’ ‘Tell me what you’re thinking right now.’ And he did. And then it’s just a matter of everybody getting on the same page and moving it forward.”

If it sounds as if we’ve heard this before, it’s because we have.

The Cubs have no idea when Darvish will throw again, or even, apparently, when he wants to, despite the assertion Friday that he would be ready to resume throwing three to five days after the shot.

Asked when Darvish might restart a throwing program, Maddon said, “I’m not 100 percent sure. I know he’s feeling better, though.”

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Asked what Darvish expressed in terms of when he thought he could throw again or when he might want to, Maddon said, “We didn’t discuss that. That was not part of the conversation. It was about general health, going to Texas [on Friday for the exam and shot], coming back, what are you feeling right now, just like a philosophical discussion based on what’s going to happen down the road.”

That’s where it is with the $126 million enigma that is Yu Darvish more than halfway through the first of his contracted six seasons with the Cubs: philosophical discussions about pitching again someday.

“I just want him to know how much we want him back out there and how important he is to us,” Maddon said. “That was primarily the crux of the conversation.”

Darvish has been unavailable to the media since returning from his visit to Texas.

Meanwhile, the Cubs got something more than philosophy and promises Sunday from Jose Quintana, who delivered his best start since June 11 with six strong innings in a 5-2 victory over the Tigers. It gave them a two-game sweep that extended their winning streak to a season-best six games.

It was the Cubs’ first start of at least six innings since Mike Montgomery — Darvish’s rotation fill-in — went six June 24.

The last Cub to pitch more than six in a start was Lester (11-2, 2.25 ERA), on June 20, during the seven-game winning streak the $155 million left-hander will take into his next start Sunday against the Reds.

“We’ve had one guy that’s been carrying it, and the rest of us it’s just been up and down,” starter Kyle Hendricks said of Lester’s impact on the rotation.

That explains why the Cubs are being especially judicious with Lester’s workload in the final 10 games before the break, making sure to give him the extra days off the scheduled days off allow between now and then.

“The big thing was to not really push Jonny around,” Maddon said of leaving the rotation in order heading to the break. “Jon has obviously been our workhorse, and there’s a strong possibility he may wind up on the All-Star team. We just want to be aware of all that stuff.”

The next biggest factor is trying to figure out whether Darvish, the four-time All-Star who looked so good in a rehab start barely a week ago, can make an impact in another second-half push for the Cubs.

“I did tell him how eager we are to get him back, how important it is for us getting to the playoffs and winning the World Series,” Maddon said. “Having him be a part of this is pretty darn important. I really wanted to re-emphasize that, too.

“It’s really been fascinating, interesting getting to know him.”

But getting him on the mound? 

“I have no expectations other than I want him to be well,” Maddon said.