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Yu would be 'honored' to get Opening Day nod

Kimbrel takes on Schwarber in live BP
@MLBastian
February 24, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish conducts his interviews in English, but he often has an interpreter nearby in case assistance is required for an unfamiliar word or two. Following his live batting-practice workout on Monday, Darvish held a discussion with reporters on his own. Then, the topic of possibly starting

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish conducts his interviews in English, but he often has an interpreter nearby in case assistance is required for an unfamiliar word or two. Following his live batting-practice workout on Monday, Darvish held a discussion with reporters on his own.

Then, the topic of possibly starting on Opening Day came up.

"I don't know what you're saying," Darvish said with a smirk.

There is nothing lost in translation about how Darvish performed in the second half of last season. The righty posted a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts and only seven walks, limiting batters to a .199 average across 81 2/3 innings. When the offseason arrived, Darvish did everything he could to maintain that feeling and rhythm.

In Monday's two-inning session, Darvish showed off a variety of fastballs and offspeed offerings to a group of hitters that included Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber. Both batters struck out against the righty, who said he still feels like he has the command he harnessed over the final two-plus months of '19.

"I still have it," Darvish said. "I don't know why I started throwing a lot of strikes now, but now I feel like I have a lot of confidence."

Darvish noted that he likes the current pitching progression that has been devised with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for the start of Spring Training. The starter threw around 30 pitches in Monday's session and said he is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Saturday against the Brewers.

That led to the question of whether Darvish would want the assignment of starting on Opening Day against the Brewers on March 26. Cubs manager David Ross has not announced his choice for that game, but Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Darvish each have an argument for being the rotation's tone-setter.

"I'd like that opportunity. Honored," Darvish said. "I'm not sure if I'm pitching Game 1. But, if I had the ball, I'd look forward to pitching."

Kimbrel faces hitters
Schwarber stood in the batter's box, shaking his head, but allowing himself to smile at the same time. He had just swung and missed on a nasty offspeed pitch from closer Craig Kimbrel. It was the kind of pitch that elicited gasps from the fans watching from behind the fence.

"He didn't know what was coming," Kimbrel said.

Kimbrel faced Schwarber and an assortment of other hitters in a one-inning live BP workout on Monday morning. It marked the first time facing hitters this spring for the closer, who spun a handful of breaking balls and also gave his heater a test run.

It was Step 1 for Kimbrel, who said he will have at least one more live-BP session before advancing to Cactus League games.

"I felt good, obviously, going through it and getting it done," Kimbrel said. "I still feel like I've got some things to work on and some direction things to stay more true with. I mean, I threw some good pitches and I threw some pitches that I wasn't happy with. But, that's part of getting out there and facing hitters."

Worth noting
• Cubs bench coach Andy Green managed in place of Ross on Monday for the third straight game. Ross, who has been dealing with flu-like symptoms since Friday, spent limited time at the Cubs' complex on Monday to watch the live batting practice workouts (Darvish, Kimbrel and Jeremy Jeffress).

• Josh Phegley's home run against the Mariners on Monday marked the third game in a row in which a Cubs' catcher cleared the fence. Willson Contreras went deep against the A's on Saturday and Victor Caratini followed suit against the Dodgers on Sunday.

• Left-hander José Quintana did not report to the Cubs' complex on Monday due to flu-like symptoms. His throwing schedule is unclear at the moment, while Chicago's medical staff monitors his progress.

Up next
Lester is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday, when the Cubs host the Rockies at 2:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park. The left-hander is slated to log one inning, opposite Colorado starter Wes Parsons. The game will be available on MLB.TV and Marquee Sports Network.

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.