SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes having Yu Darvish on his side. What he's learned so far about the pitcher is that he can hit and he speaks English well. On Wednesday, Darvish looked as if he was ready for the regular season to begin.In his fourth spring
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes having Yu Darvish on his side. What he's learned so far about the pitcher is that he can hit and he speaks English well. On Wednesday, Darvish looked as if he was ready for the regular season to begin.
In his fourth spring start, Darvish struck out seven over six innings against his former team, the Rangers, in the Cubs' 5-1 victory. Darvish gave up three hits, including a solo homer to Juan Centeno.
"On the mound, it's nice knowing he's going to walk into your dugout after the inning is over," Maddon said. "Otherwise, he looks the same to me -- the good carry on the low fastball, the slider that they come back and say, 'Man, that's unhittable.' I've heard that. I didn't know he was that good offensively -- I didn't know he was that good with the bat."
It was a nice homecoming of sorts for Darvish, who was heckled a little by his former Rangers teammates from the dugout.
"I drove myself here today, and as I got closer to the stadium, it was nice seeing the scenery that I'm used to watching," Darvish said.
One of his more interesting strikeouts came in the fifth inning, when he got Drew Robinson looking at a 94 mph fastball. Darvish teetered a little on the mound before throwing the ball.
"I got off balance," Darvish said. "I thought of not pitching, and went with it and ended up getting a strikeout. I think it was the best pitch today."
Darvish will get one more short outing before the regular season begins and then make his official Cubs debut on March 31 against the Marlins. What tells Darvish that he's ready?
"I didn't have any fatigue entering the sixth inning, and my velocity actually went up," he said.
Darvish, who signed a six-year contract with the Cubs in February, answered a few questions prior to Wednesday's outing.
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MLB.com: You write a blog -- is it for fans?
Darvish: I've been blogging since '07, mainly for fans in Japan.
MLB.com: Have you gotten a good response?
Darvish: I know a lot of fans in Japan are interested in what I do, like my personal life, so it's a way for me to share those moments with them.
MLB.com: I've heard that you throw left-handed -- is that true?
Darvish: I do, but it's just for fun.
MLB.com: Do you bat left-handed?
Darvish: I injured my left thumb last year and that's why I started batting left-handed, but this year, most likely right-handed.
MLB.com: Can you be a switch-hitter?
Darvish: I don't think so.
MLB.com: In 2013, you led the American League in strikeouts. Are you a different pitcher now?
Darvish: Generally, I like to say I'm the same pitcher, but in terms of walks, I've walked fewer hitters [each season since then], so in that sense, there's been progression.
MLB.com: You had Tommy John surgery in 2015. Do you feel stronger now?
Darvish: I certainly feel stronger, but there's two years of blank, so in that sense, some part of the feeling of pitching in general has changed. That's something I have to regain.
MLB.com: Fans at Spring Training games have been chanting "Yuuuu" when you pitch. Are you looking forward to hearing that at Wrigley Field?
Darvish: Wrigley is a great ballpark with a lot of tradition, so I'm looking forward to going there to play.
MLB.com: Last year, you were the Rangers' Opening Day starter, and this year you're third in the Cubs' rotation. Does that matter?
Darvish: The number doesn't really matter. I may be third, but I may end up pitching in the fifth spot or first spot, depending on how the season progresses. It doesn't really matter.
MLB.com: So it's OK that Jonathan Lester gets the Opening Day start for the Cubs?
Darvish: He is the leader of the club, and he hits the ball the farthest, so I think he deserves it as well.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.