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Cubs’ Yu Darvish finishes spring healthy and smiling, but he has bigger goals

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs No. 2 starter Yu Darvish threw 71 pitches in a minor-league game in Mesa – continuing to protect the healing blister on his right ring finger with a Band Aid – and then declared himself “ready” to start the season.

That means a first start in the second game of the season, Saturday in Texas, against former Rangers teammates. Unless you believe him when he smirks and suggests “maybe the sixth game” or when he later suggests, with a smile, that his first start will come three days after Thursday’s between-starts bullpen – which would be Sunday.

“I’m sneaky,” Darvish said when pushed on the contradictions.

The official announcement of his Saturday schedule could come as soon as Monday.

Darvish pitching March 19 against the Mariners.

Meanwhile, Darvish said he felt good throughout the five-inning tune-up despite how “weird” some of the pitches felt early with the Band Aid on – a precaution urged by the training staff. He expects to throw his bullpen session without one.

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His banter and misdirection with media suggest just one more sign of how well his second spring training with the club has gone.

“I’m happy because I’m still healthy,” he said. “But this is not the goal. My goal is to stay healthy the whole season. This is the first step.”

Promising pitching lines

Right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who’s in the bullpen after losing his starting job over enormous control problems last year, pitched a 1-2-3 inning of relief in the Cubs’ 24-6 Cactus League victory over the Padres in Peoria, Arizona.

He struck out two and is perfect over his last four spring outings.

Newly acquired lefty Tim Collins also pitched a 1-2-3 inning against the Padres on the day his signing was announced.

On deck

Red Sox at Cubs, Mesa, 8:05 p.m. Monday, NBCSCH, 670-AM, Rick Porcello vs Cole Hamels.