Darvish returns the two-seamer to his arsenal

April 16th, 2019

MIAMI -- Consider Monday's sixth inning a test drive for right-hander , who provided an enticing look at an extra weapon that could permanently return to his arsenal.

Darvish clocked 98.7 mph on his final pitch -- a two-seamer -- that hit Lewis Brinson and the home-plate umpire.

It's a pitch that he hadn't yet thrown in 2019 but had been working on in bullpens between starts, an offering that will allow him, as Darvish explained, to "mix it up," and make things less predictable.

"I remember during the game [our staff] brought it up and then it showed up," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Tuesday. "Yu looked right in the dugout and [he and the staff] smiled at each other because it was pretty successful."

Here is the breakdown of Darvish's two-seamer usage over the past few seasons:

2016: 21%
2017: 17%
2018: 19%
2019: 0%, before Monday

Darvish turned to his two-seamer 10 times in Monday's sixth inning alone, when he flashed upper-90s velocity rather than his typical low-90s. He used the pitch on 21 percent of his total pitch count (96). According to Statcast, of the 20 two-seamers, Darvish got six called strikes, two foul balls and a 75.2 mph average exit velocity.

"I know he can throw that hard, but at the end of the game, I didn't expect that," catcher said. "It's good to know that he can throw 98-99 [mph]."

Montgomery rehab pushed back

didn't pitch for Class A South Bend on Tuesday night, as his wife gave birth to a boy, Max Michael Montgomery.

Montgomery will instead throw two innings or 35 pitches on Wednesday, as he recovers from a mild left lat strain (retroactive to April 5).

"We haven't drawn it all the way out yet, but the fact that it's not so far gone from when he began on the injured list, I don't think it's going to be a long process," Maddon said.

Celebrating with familia

A group of about 20 came to watch , who grew up in nearby Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on his 25th birthday. After Tuesday’s final out, the party will move to his uncle's house.

His mother, Ana, and several others wore a shirt designed by her cousin that pays homage to Almora's nickname that childhood teammates came up with: "Superman."

It's a fitting one considering the superhuman catch he made in the right-center-field gap during the first inning of Monday's win.

"That left me astonished because I didn't really think he was going to make it," Ana said. "He told me he didn't either. He said when he saw [Jason Heyward] celebrating, he looked at the glove and he saw he got it. He didn't even know he got it. That was amazing."