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Darvish 'focused' in first side session for Cubs

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' plan is to let Yu Darvish be himself.

The newest addition to the Cubs' rotation had his first side session on Thursday, and manager Joe Maddon was pleased with what he saw from the right-hander.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' plan is to let Yu Darvish be himself.

The newest addition to the Cubs' rotation had his first side session on Thursday, and manager Joe Maddon was pleased with what he saw from the right-hander.

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"He's really focused and clear on what he wants to do and how he wants to do it," Maddon said. "I'm getting to know him and it's been relatively easy. I think he's very comfortable already here and that's important. I think it's reflected in conversations, how he feels about being here. You saw his work, he looked really focused. There was nothing for him to worry about except hitting the catcher's mitt. [I've enjoyed] getting to know him."

When Darvish was traded to the Dodgers last year, the team asked him to streamline his pitch selection and throw more sliders and fewer cutters.

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"We want him to be him, so we'd prefer to get his input and feedback regarding how he wants to go about it," Maddon said. "I'm aware of what happened with the Dodgers. I think you're going to see maybe more of a complete version than he had been in the past [in terms of] utilizing more of his weaponry.

"We're not going to dictate to him necessarily how he needs to go about pitching, pitch usage, number of pitches, incorporating the variety he has. Let him alone, let him go pitch and we'll watch it. We're not following the plan that he had with the Dodgers."

Darvish did follow the Dodgers' plan in the postseason, which resulted in a win over the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, when he limited them to six hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-1 win.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Darvish tosses 6 1/3 frames of one-run ball

Willson Contreras caught Darvish's first side session, not non-roster invitee Chris Gimenez, who caught the right-hander when they were together on the Rangers.

"I think that's been overplayed a lot," Maddon said of the Gimenez-Darvish connection. "Of course, 'Gimmy' might catch him but Willson is our guy, Willson's our catcher, and I want Willson to catch him. It's never been our plan to match him up exclusively with 'Gimmy.'"

Darvish did joke at his introductory news conference that he liked Contreras better.

Video: Darvish playfully explains relationship with Gimenez

• The Cubs are expected to carry 13 relievers this year.

"When you look at the names among the relievers, it's hard to imagine less than 13," Maddon said. "And when you look at the position players, there's so much versatility. I think the combination of versatility and looking for at-bats -- why put another guy on the bench who you're looking for at-bats for?"

• Will the Cubs' relievers keep dancing? They started doing celebratory dances in the bullpen at Wrigley Field after one of their teammates hit a home run.

"I keep getting asked about that," new Cubs closer Brandon Morrow said.

Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. will take charge of the dance moves.

"I think I'm going to clear this whole place out and have this whole choreography thing and see what we've got," Edwards said. "I might have to put the hitters in it, too."

Video: PIT@CHC: Schwarber follows Happ with HR, 'pen dances

Edwards wanted to have the batters prepared in case one of them is needed to pitch in relief. Told that Gimenez made six appearances on the mound last year, Edwards perked up.

"I'm going to have to check him out and see what he's got," Edwards said. "He might do a robot or something."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish