What’s Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish got left? Almost 80 mph, that’s what
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MESA, Ariz. — Two sides to everything?
Just look at Yu Darvish.
No, really, look at Yu Darvish.
On any given day between Darvish’s assigned bullpen work or starts — spring or summer — a keen observer might notice the strange, wrong way he’s throwing the baseball.
“Wrong” as in not right.
As in the guy is throwing left-handed. Remarkably polished and strong.
“I started in junior high when I was 14 years old, but at that time, it was not so good,” said Darvish, a four-time All-Star selection as a right-handed power pitcher. “But it’s getting better since I’ve come to MLB.”
During his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2015, Darvish threw left-handed a lot. At one point during that stretch, he said, a radar gun clocked his hardest lefty throw at 79 mph.
Talk about big-league ready: That’s almost Hendricksian-level power, fergawdsake.
Which leads to the obvious question: Why not use this rare ability to pull a Pat Venditte and pitch from both sides in the same game — or, say, keep going last year when his right elbow kept him from throwing with that arm? Venditte, who pitched for the Athletics, Mariners, Blue Jays and Dodgers the last four years, has a glove he can use on either hand as the majors’ only active ambidextrous pitcher. He’s in camp with the Giants this spring.
“No chance,” Darvish said. “I can’t throw strikes. And my left elbow is not good.”
Still, he said he’s able to throw a left-handed slider and curve ball, as well as a changeup. Just about the time that locker neighbor Cole Hamels perked up during some casual eavesdropping, Darvish added: “I think my slider’s actually better than Cole Hamels’.”
Hamels laughed. But didn’t deny it.
“Teammates are always joking, telling me, ‘Hey, throw left-handed,’ ” Darvish said.
He gets at least one serious benefit out of it.
“After I start, the next day I will throw left-handed long toss,” he said, “for the balance. It’s good balance for the body because we always use this [right] side.”
Here’s a fun fact: Darvish had a higher left-handed WAR in 2018 than right-handed, without ever throwing a pitch from that side. OK, that fact is maybe not so fun (his season
WAR was minus-0.2, according to baseballreference.com).
Strength and balance, sure. Maybe good therapy when going through an injury.
But what about some lefty game action? Darvish has five years left on his Cubs contract.
So far in camp, he has looked good in bullpen sessions, but what if his right arm, like, fell off or something?
“Then I would try,” he said.