Yu Darvish optimistic after bullpen session, takes dig at A-Rod
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Right-hander Yu Darvish seemed to be in good spirits Saturday after mixing all his pitches into a 55-pitch bullpen session as he continues his recovery from tendinitis in his right triceps.
Afterward, Darvish signed a few autographs for fans, spoke with the media and cracked some jokes at ESPN analyst Alex Rodriguez’s expense. Rodriguez, of course, had criticized the Cubs’ $126 million starter last week on ‘‘Sunday Night Baseball’’ for being a clubhouse distraction as he recovers from the injury.
Darvish was asked whether he would like to speak with Rodriguez when he visits Chicago for the ‘‘Sunday Night Baseball’’ telecast next week.
‘‘If he sends me a text message or something, I’ll keep it and then maybe take a screenshot and print it out and frame it,’’ Darvish said sarcastically through an interpreter. ‘‘Just for a keepsake.’’
He then added in English: ‘‘I’m not joking.’’
It was a good bit of lighthearted fun from Darvish, who has been painted by critics as too soft or too sensitive.
Darvish could have the last laugh if he returns in time to pitch in some meaningful late-season games and, potentially, in the playoffs.
‘‘First things first,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got to see how my body reacts [Sunday] and go from there.’’
Darvish, who hasn’t pitched since May, had thrown 23 pitches during a bullpen session last week in St. Louis and felt some elbow pain early in the session. On Saturday, he sounded optimistic about the process.
‘‘He seems a little more upbeat,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘His smile was easier. I try to read body language and faces, and when you ask pitchers how they’re feeling, they reveal what’s going on, and normally it is the smile. I took that as a good thing.’’
Darvish said his recovery turned a corner when treatment shifted to his spine and back. The Cubs later clarified the comment, saying the treatment of Darvish’s back is a routine part of his overall rehab program, not treatment for a back injury.
Whatever they’re doing seems to be working. Darvish said he has been pain-free since the back treatment began.
‘‘All my pitches velocity-wise were up there the highest, and I was able to follow through with my arm motion,’’ he said.
A better Baez
Maddon said he could think of only one thing when asked about areas in which infielder Javy Baez still could improve.
‘‘Just continue with pitch selection, just force the pitcher into the zone more,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘That’s it.’’
Baez, a National League MVP candidate, entered play Saturday leading the league in RBI, extra-base hits and total bases. He’s also first in offensive wins above replacement.
Baez already has set career highs with 29 doubles, seven triples, 84 RBI and 19 stolen bases and is closing in on previous career highs of 75 runs scored and 128 hits.
‘‘He’s using the whole field,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘You saw the home run [Friday] — opposite field, into the wind. You saw the play at second base, the play at third base. You’ve seen the baserunning.
‘‘When you sit down and work with him, there’s not a whole lot in the other parts of his game [that can improve], other than hitting.’’