Opt-out looming, Yu says Cubs 'perfect for me'
Maddon relaxed as season winds down; Castellanos sits with groin injury
ST. LOUIS -- Sitting in the visitors' dugout at Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon, Yu Darvish estimated that there were as many as 20 reasons behind his incredible in-season turnaround. He did feel there was one driving factor above anything else.
"Because of the Cubs," Darvish said. "A lot of guys were patient and they always helped me."
Once Chicago was officially eliminated from postseason contention earlier this week, the team shut Darvish down for the rest of the year. The right-hander reached 178 2/3 innings this season after being limited to 40 frames across eight outings in an injury-marred 2018.
This season got off to a rough start for Darvish, but he enjoyed a strong second half as his comfort level with the Cubs, his teammates and the city of Chicago strengthed. Now, the pitcher is in a unique position of deciding whether he wants to keep the relationship going in 2020 and beyond.
This offseason, Darvish has the ability to opt out of the remainder of the six-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Cubs prior to last year. He said Friday that he has not finalized that decision, but at the moment he does not expect to elect free agency.
"I haven't decided yet," Darvish said. "I have to talk to my family and agent, too. My kids and my wife love Chicago, especially the kids. They only care about the Cubbies. So, I don't think [I will opt out]."
Overall this season, Darvish had a win-loss ledger of just 6-8, but he turned in a 3.98 ERA with 229 strikeouts against 56 walks in 31 starts. Dating back to the start of July, the righty had a 2.95 ERA with 124 strikeouts and only seven walks in 88 1/3 innings (14 starts). That came after he turned in a 4.98 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 49 walks in 90 1/3 innings (17 starts) through the end of June.
Darvish credited manager Joe Maddon, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, specifically, for the patience they showed him throughout the past two seasons. Maddon, in particular, earned some high praise from the pitcher.
"He's a great person, not only a great manager," Darvish said. "Especially last year and the beginning of the year, he was so patient for me. That's why I feel really good right now, because of him."
With all of those factors in mind, Darvish said he feels at home with the Cubs.
"This organization is perfect for me," he said.
Maddon remains relaxed
This is still no resolution about the managerial future of Maddon, whose contract with the Cubs expires at season's end. That doesn't mean Maddon is stressed about the situation. In fact, the manager has been especially upbeat this week, and that continued on Friday afternoon.
"The future has not been decided yet but quite frankly, I'm feeling pretty good," Maddon said. "When you get to do this, what I'm doing every day, and you get to do it here under the circumstances of what we've done over the last several years, it's hard to get upset or get down. Why would you do that?"
Maddon will continue to discuss his future this week with Epstein, and the manager said Thursday in Pittsburgh that he expects to know an answer one way or the other by Monday.
Maddon had every intention of playing Nicholas Castellanos on Friday night, given the outfielder's historic doubles pursuit. During his pregame workout, Castellanos tweaked his right groin and was scratched from the lineup against the Cardinals.
Maddon said he "absolutely" wants to give Castellanos -- currently sitting at 58 doubles -- a chance to become the first hitter since 1936 to reach 60 in a single season. The manager added that he was not sure if the groin issue would cost Castellanos a shot at playing in Chicago's final two games of the year.
No apology necessary
Maddon remarked on Thursday that he did not care if anyone complained about his lineups this weekend, even with the Cardinals and Brewers still jockeying for playoff position. The manager reiterated on Friday that he has no intention of asking any of his star players dealing with injuries -- small or large -- to take the field in St. Louis.
"I'm not going to play hurt people," Maddon said. "I'm not going to pitch guys that are over limits, based on what's best for the Cubs, ever. So, the conclusion of my commentary yesterday was pretty much, 'Understand these guys are hurt, so if you want to try to complain, go ahead and do that.'"