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Darvish debuts with 6 different pitches

Righty racks up 3 K's in first spring outing
@Russ_Dorsey1
February 29, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- If you ask most pitchers what they’re trying to accomplish in their first appearance of the spring, they’ll probably say they just want to keep things simple. But not Cubs starter Yu Darvish.

MESA, Ariz. -- If you ask most pitchers what they’re trying to accomplish in their first appearance of the spring, they’ll probably say they just want to keep things simple. But not Cubs starter Yu Darvish.

Darvish shook things up in his first Cactus League start, throwing six different pitches during his two innings of work in the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers at Sloan Park on Saturday.

“[Four-seam] fastball, cutter, hard cutter, slider, knuckle-curveball, two-seam [fastball],” Darvish said with a smile. “Yeah, six pitches.

“Just playing baseball. This is [my] first game, so I have to make sure my routine is right. That’s it.”

Darvish showcased his wide array of pitches early after giving up a leadoff homer to Orlando Arcia on the first pitch of the game. He finished the inning by striking out Avisaíl García on a 98 mph fastball and Logan Morrison on a mid-80s knuckle-curve.

“I’ve showed my power curve over my nine years here, and no one has hit well against that pitch,” Darvish said. “So, I can show it any time I want.”

The 33-year-old right-hander has earned a reputation over the years for his impressive pitching repertoire, and while fans and maybe even opponents are shocked with his wide array of pitches, his teammates aren’t.

Darvish came to the United States in 2012 with a unique number of pitches but has also picked up some things along the way. After having a conversation and tutorial with Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel on his signature knuckle-curveball last season, Darvish tested it out in a bullpen session and decided to add it to his vast repertoire.

The “hard cutter” was also a pitch Darvish added in 2019.

“I don't think you have enough days or enough throws to work on all those, but it seems like he does a good job of narrowing down which ones he wants to work on each day,” Kimbrel told reporters on Monday. “He'll work on like three pitches a day and then the next time he'll work on three different pitches. It's pretty cool to see how he goes about harnessing his pitches."

In his Cactus League debut, Darvish looked very similar to the pitcher that went 4-4 with a 2.76 ERA after the All-Star break. His fastball -- which sat between 94-96 mph and topped out at 98 mph -- also opened some eyes, especially this early in the spring.

“I feel my spin efficiency is getting better, that’s why hitters swing and miss a lot. So I felt really comfortable today,” Darvish said. “I was throwing hard last year, but my spin efficiency wasn’t good enough. That’s why hitters didn’t swing and miss that much. Especially lefties. But this year, I feel different so I can get more swing-and-misses.”

Spin efficiency is the percentage of spin directly impacting the movement of a pitch. The higher a pitcher’s spin efficiency, the easier it becomes to miss bats.

"He just moves the ball so well. He spins the ball really well," Kimbrel said. "So, he's working every corner with every pitch. I mean, I think that's the thing that makes him so special as a pitcher. I'd have a hard time going out there throwing seven pitches.”

Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.