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Yu nearing rehab assignment after sim game

Duensing playing long toss; Bryant taking ground balls
August 14, 2018

CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and the next step could be a Minor League rehab start.Darvish threw about 55 pitches in the live batting-practice setting, facing David Bote and Victor Caratini, who hit a long home run that landed halfway up the

CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and the next step could be a Minor League rehab start.
Darvish threw about 55 pitches in the live batting-practice setting, facing David Bote and Victor Caratini, who hit a long home run that landed halfway up the bleachers in right-center field. The results were not so much a concern for the Cubs, who were pleased with the right-hander's intensity.
"He looked totally involved," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was absolutely competing out there, that's the word I used. He got upset with himself when he spiked one fastball, which I kind of liked. He looked really good and was not holding back."
That Darvish was "competing" through the entire outing is a good sign for the Cubs, considering it was the longest simulated game he's thrown so far. On Wednesday, he threw two innings in Kansas City. Darvish has been on the disabled list since May 23 with right triceps tendinitis.
Darvish's arm strength, endurance and intensity were encouraging, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. The next step, though, will be determined in the coming days based on how Darvish feels. There is still no timetable for his return.
"Today versus the one in Kansas City, for example, I think he let a few more pitches go today," Epstein said. "He was competing a little more, instead of just trying to get a feel for his stuff and throw it to certain spots. That's the point you want to get to before he goes out to a rehab situation."
Maddon said Darvish's stuff didn't diminish much if at all in his third inning, and that there was "great spin on the breaking stuff."
Other Cubs updates
• The Cubs completed their trade with the Rangers for Cole Hamels. The Rangers acquired outfielder Alexander Ovalles, who was playing in the Dominican Summer League. A left-handed hitter, Ovalles was batting .316/.430/.368 with eight stolen bases in 21 games with the DSL Cubs team. He had surgery last month to remove the hamate bone.
• Reliever Brian Duensing (left shoulder inflammation) was playing catch from 105 feet and hopes to throw a bullpen session by the end of the Cubs' next road trip, which would be Aug. 23.
"Things are going good," said Duensing, who got a cortisone shot in his shoulder. "There's no pain. Beforehand, it felt like everything inside my shoulder was underwater. It's felt that way since spring ended and I've been battling through it. I got to the point where I couldn't do it anymore.
"It was so sore that I was trying to find other ways to create velocity and angles, and then you get into bad habits," the left-hander said. "Everyone walks guys, but I don't walk guys like that. Obviously, something was going on. I couldn't repeat my delivery and I created all these bad habits."
• Third baseman Kristopher Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) took ground balls on the field on Tuesday. He got to the field just in time to handle a grounder from one of the Cubs players taking part in Darvish's simulated game. There's no timetable for Bryant's return.
"I think he's in a good place where he's gotten to the point that -- I don't want to speak for him on things like symptoms and pain -- but it seems to be pain free at this point," Epstein said. "Now he's just got to get back into a certain game phase to take swings that are closer to game-type intensity and trust it to come back. That's also, I think, turned a corner."
Brandon Morrow (right biceps inflammation) has yet to throw off a mound.
"He's feeling a little bit better," Maddon said. "I don't have a conclusive moment there, but he's feeling better."
• In his last outing against the Nationals, Jonathan Lester lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up eight earned runs. Maddon talked to the left-hander after the game.
"Quite frankly, it's hard to pinpoint [what's wrong], because he feels so good," Maddon said of Lester, who is 0-3 with a 10.32 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. "His velocity is actually up. We talked about some things, maybe just in his approach, the mix of what he's been doing compared to what he had been doing. There are some indicators that might indicate if we change things back, you might see better results.
"Physically, he's great," Maddon said of the left-hander, who was 12-2 with a 2.58 ERA in the first half. "His stuff is still first rate. More than anything, it's maybe his approach has changed a little bit and we want to get him back to where he had been. He came in and talked to me after that game [against the Nationals] and said, 'I felt great.' I love that he did not make an excuse -- 'I felt great, I need to find some answers here because I don't understand it, because I feel good,' which I love to hear."
• When Maddon was hired in November 2014, he signed a five-year contract. Epstein said he has not talked to the manager about a possible extension.
"Nothing like that is even a thought in our mind right now," Epstein said. "We're just focused on trying to make the absolute most of the season, which means win the division, play really well in October and try to get another ring.
"The appropriate time for us internally is to start thinking about it after we've played our last game," Epstein said.

Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.