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Hottovy cites lack of focus for Yu's outing

Righty was too 'amped up' facing old club; Edwards Jr. to stay the course; Schwarber's adjustments paying off
@MLBastian
March 31, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy believes that the circumstances surrounding Yu Darvish's season debut on Saturday played a big role in the pitcher's struggles. During an 8-6 loss to the Rangers, Darvish issued a career-high seven walks in a career-low 2 2/3 innings, battling poor command of his

ARLINGTON -- Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy believes that the circumstances surrounding Yu Darvish's season debut on Saturday played a big role in the pitcher's struggles.

During an 8-6 loss to the Rangers, Darvish issued a career-high seven walks in a career-low 2 2/3 innings, battling poor command of his fastball while being erratic with his tempo. Hottovy said on Sunday that the emotions Darvish was dealing with -- stemming from facing his old teammates, pitching in his old ballpark and making his return from an injury-marred 2018 -- led to a lack of focus.

"I saw just an amped-up version of him," Hottovy said. "Obviously, he's a guy who was excited to be back here pitching in Texas and excited to pitch against his old team. I think you kind of saw the joking around in the first inning with Elvis Andrus. And that's great. He's obviously comfortable with these guys. But also, there's a focus factor that we need to make sure that we're in on."

Hottovy noted that fastball command was an issue at times for Darvish throughout the spring, but he added that the right-hander made better in-game adjustments in the preseason. During Spring Training, Hottovy and Darvish also worked a lot on the pitcher's tempo on the mound. The pitching coach said Darvish was all over the place in that regard in his abbreviated start in Texas.

"He looked slow at times, especially in between pitches. But then, really fast in the delivery sometimes," Hottovy said. "We try to get our guys to be as rhythmic and as smooth as possible. It's something that has been a focal point in spring. We'll just kind of keep our eyes on it and keep focused on it. We'll have cues between him and Willson [Contreras] to kind of remind them, 'Hey, pick the tempo up.' And that's something he's aware of. That's something we talked about all spring."

Woodward questions Edwards' move

In the eighth inning of Saturday's game, Rangers manager Chris Woodward complained to home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora about Carl Edwards Jr.'s delivery. The Cubs reliever uses a hesitation after lifting his left leg before driving toward the plate. At times, Edwards' foot will touch the dirt again before he fires a pitch.

"He did it against us in Spring Training," Woodward told reporters on Sunday. "But he did it where it was more continuous. It’s one thing to touch -- Robb Nen touched, Kenley [Jansen] touches sometimes -- but it was a continuous move. He put his foot down, stopped and then went again. You can't do that."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon disagreed.

"I don't believe that's illegal," Maddon said. "Out of the windup, you're able to do all these hesitations and double pumps and stall with your hand over your head. There's so many different things you can do."

Edwards introduced the method during Spring Training and had great results (eight strikeouts and no walks in six innings), but the righty labored in Saturday's appearance. Even after the rough outing (he walked two and gave up two hits, including a three-run homer to Joey Gallo, without recording an out), Hottovy wants Edwards to stay the course.

"The easiest thing to do is to scrap it, go right back to what you've done your whole life," Hottovy said. "Now you're right back to where you started. We've said that with guys who have worked on new pitches, new grips, all that stuff -- it's about the process."

Worth noting

• During Spring Training, Kyle Schwarber showed off an altered batting stance, crouching lower in his setup to get more out of his legs. It is a return to an approach the left fielder used earlier in his career. Maddon liked what he saw throughout the spring, but was even more impressed on Saturday, when Schwarber had three hits, including a home run.

"That's even better than I saw in Spring Training," Maddon said. "His hands, his base, the bottom, the balance, his hand position, the shortness. Everything. Everything. Everything's different. He's got much better control of his body. He should be able to be shorter to the ball, make better adjustments down and up. I'm curious to watch this whole thing."

Schwarber kept it up in Sunday's series finale, hitting a solo home run off Lance Lynn in the second inning of Chicago's 11-10 loss.

• Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will start the opener of the Cubs' upcoming road series in Atlanta on Monday, with Jon Lester (Wednesday) and Darvish (Thursday) starting the other two games against the Braves. Chicago's probables for the following series in Milwaukee will be Jose Quintana (Friday), Cole Hamels (Saturday) and Hendricks (April 7).

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.