MESA, Ariz. -- Chris Gimenez remembers when he first met Yu Darvish. They were teammates with the Rangers, and the catcher was terrified of the pitcher."He'd walk by you and stare at you and not say a word," Gimenez said.But the two developed a close relationship that has included their
MESA, Ariz. -- Chris Gimenez remembers when he first met Yu Darvish. They were teammates with the Rangers, and the catcher was terrified of the pitcher.
"He'd walk by you and stare at you and not say a word," Gimenez said.
But the two developed a close relationship that has included their share of arguments, and Gimenez's approach may help the Cubs' catchers work with Darvish.
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"I give him credit -- coming to a new country and learning English and dealing with all the pressure he had on him, he did well," said Gimenez, who was Darvish's teammate in 2014-15. "I think he understood that I cared and it wasn't a front I was putting on. I generally cared how he did, and I think he started to appreciate that and started trusting me a little more, too.
"I also had to understand going into it that he was one of those guys who would throw what he wanted to throw, and I had no say in it."
But there were times Gimenez -- who is 4-for-8 with seven RBIs in three Cactus League games -- called a different pitch. If it worked, which it usually did, the catcher would gain more trust with the pitcher.
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"We've had our fights," Gimenez said Thursday. "We've yelled at each other before. I'm also not afraid to yell back at him, and not in a mean way, by any means. It's a complete loving way. He needs to understand that I care and that's a way to show that, and I'm invested in this with him."
Gimenez remembered a game against the Yankees. The two had agreed on an approach before an inning. The hitter they hoped to avoid got on base, and against the next batter, Gimenez called for a cutter, which Darvish had said he wanted to throw. But Darvish did a double take at the sign and was called for a balk. He wanted a slider.
"He came in and started wearing me out, and I got in his face and I got upset," Gimenez said. "I said, 'Listen, I'll be the first person to admit if I screw up. But if you told me you wanted to do this and I did exactly what you wanted me to do, and you're mad at me, that's when I have to stand up for myself.' We talked it out, and it wasn't a big deal -- it was a competitive moment. He wants to be successful."
And that's something the Cubs will learn about Darvish quickly.
"The funny thing people don't realize with him is that he's an extreme competitor," Gimenez said. "When he's on the mound, he wants to win, and I'll take that any day of the week."
Darvish was scratched from his Cactus League debut on Thursday because he's been ill, but he did throw in the bullpen and also took batting practice. He is expected to make his Cubs debut on Tuesday against his former team, the Dodgers.
So far, Gimenez has caught one of his live batting-practice sessions, while Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini also have been receiving Darvish behind the plate. They're learning about the new Cubs pitcher.
"He's good -- everything's good," Caratini said. "I asked him what he wants to work on and focus on, and he tells me. No problems."
That's what Spring Training is for.
"He's a little bit of a different animal," Gimenez said of Darvish. "His thought process is a big thing, and it's probably the hardest thing to get on the same page with. ... He's got like 37 pitches, so trying to get on the same page can be difficult."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.