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Yu's skipped start a chance to manage workload

@MLBastian
September 2, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Cubs would have preferred to send Yu Darvish to the mound as planned against the Brewers on Sunday afternoon. Even so, there is an added benefit to having the pitcher skip one start to rest his right forearm. Chicago has been closely monitoring Darvish's workload this season,

CHICAGO -- The Cubs would have preferred to send Yu Darvish to the mound as planned against the Brewers on Sunday afternoon. Even so, there is an added benefit to having the pitcher skip one start to rest his right forearm.

Chicago has been closely monitoring Darvish's workload this season, both in his outings and in his side throwing sessions. The right-hander was limited to just 40 innings in 2018 due to a right elbow injury and has already climbed north of 150 innings this season. This gives the Cubs another opportunity to give him a breather with the big picture in mind.

"That was part of it also. It was easy," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said prior to Monday's series opener against the Mariners. "First of all, if a guy's not well enough to pitch, he's not well enough to pitch. You just don't do that. But, second of all, the fact [is] that we have been concerned about [his] number of innings pitched from last year to this year jumping so dramatically."

Darvish -- scratched from Sunday's start due to tightness in his forearm -- is tentatively scheduled to start for the Cubs on Saturday in Milwaukee. That gives him 10 days between starts, and will mark the seventh time this season that the right-hander has pitched with at least six days of rest between outings. Darvish has pitched eight times on five days' rest and 13 on a typical five-day routine.

Darvish declined to talk to reporters on Monday morning about his forearm injury.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said the team will continue to monitor Darvish closely down the stretch, especially given the hopes of a postseason run. Hottovy said it is not uncommon for pitchers to take days off from throwing or reduce the number of pitches during bullpen sessions. The pitching coach added that the team is looking at ways to use upcoming off-days to manipulate the rotation.

"It is something in the back of our mind all year," Hottovy said. "So, yes, the added benefit of this is, he's not feeling great right now, but it's a way to give him a rest, save some of those innings and be able to monitor things going forward. We're in September now, too, so we have a lot of arms. We can see where he's at in certain games."

Maddon said it has helped that Darvish has been so efficient with his pitches. Dating back to July 1, the righty has averaged 14.4 pitches per inning and 89.4 pitches per game. Over that same period, Darvish has a 3.19 ERA with 78 strikeouts and only three walks in 10 starts (62 innings). On the season overall, he has averaged 16.1 pitches per inning and 90.9 pitches per game.

"When you make dramatic jumps," Maddon said, "you're always concerned, not even maybe about this year, but about the next year, how that overlaps somehow. But he's done it before."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Javier Báez was out of the starting lineup on Monday after jamming his left thumb during a slide into second base in Sunday's loss to the Brewers. Maddon said Baez might also sit out on Tuesday, allowing the shortstop to have a block of three days off (including the team’s day off on Wednesday).

"It's nothing other than the fact that it's sore," Maddon said before Monday's game. "So we have to give that today, possibly tomorrow too. We'll find out. And, if that were the case, that's not a bad thing. He gets a little All-Star break right now. So, day to day is pretty much where it's at."

• Utility man Ben Zobrist is scheduled to start, and possibly lead off, Tuesday’s night game against the Mariners. It will mark Zobrist's first start for the Cubs since May 6, just before he was placed on MLB's restricted list.

"I know he's ready to rock and roll," Maddon said. "I know what he's capable of doing. He'll get a lot of playing time in Milwaukee coming up in a couple days."

• Prior to Monday's game, the Cubs recalled 24-year-old righty Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A and added him to their bullpen. Alzolay, who is ranked fifth on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs prospects list, posted a 3.32 ERA with 31 strikeouts against 11 walks in six outings in August for Iowa. The rookie has dealt with some injury issues this year, but said he was healthy and ready to embrace any role.

"He'll do anything," Maddon said. "We're not looking for him to start right now, obviously. When you utilize him out of the 'pen, it probably would be in a longer role, probably. But I wouldn't run away from it otherwise if it's necessary. If he pitches, you'd have to give him the proper amount of time to reboot, and then move it from there."

• All-Star catcher Willson Contreras (10-day injured list, right hamstring) remains on a Minor League rehab assignment with Iowa but is nearing a return to the Cubs. Maddon said this weekend would be a realistic target for Contreras' return.

"He's doing well," Maddon said. "Just play it all the way through and without any setbacks, which I don't envision, he's pretty close."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.