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Darvish eyes consistency before Cubs debut

Righty impressed coaches with velocity, performance this spring
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MIAMI -- Pitching coach Jim Hickey has watched Yu Darvish from the other dugout and he has always been impressed by the right-hander. Now that Darvish and Hickey are together on the Cubs, is there anything that surprised the coach?

"What has been the biggest surprise is that I'm not surprised at anything, and that's not to say it hasn't been impressive because it's been very impressive," Hickey said on Friday, one day prior to Darvish's Cubs debut. "I've been watching him for a number of years from the other side and it's always been very impressive.

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MIAMI -- Pitching coach Jim Hickey has watched Yu Darvish from the other dugout and he has always been impressed by the right-hander. Now that Darvish and Hickey are together on the Cubs, is there anything that surprised the coach?

"What has been the biggest surprise is that I'm not surprised at anything, and that's not to say it hasn't been impressive because it's been very impressive," Hickey said on Friday, one day prior to Darvish's Cubs debut. "I've been watching him for a number of years from the other side and it's always been very impressive.

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"I'm maybe a little surprised, if you will, at the velocity as he's crept up to 98 miles an hour in Spring Training," Hickey said. "He's showing me what I've seen and what I've known about him for a number of years now."

Darvish, who signed a six-year contract in mid-February with the Cubs, will face the Marlins in the third game of this four-game series, pitching at Marlins Park for the first time in his career.

"I'm as ready as I'll be to go into the season," Darvish said on Friday through his interpreter.

Darvish made five Cactus League starts and gave up six earned runs on 14 hits and five walks while striking out 20 over 19 1/3 innings. Darvish's last tuneup for the season was on Monday when he went three innings against the Red Sox.

"He's been great, really good," manager Joe Maddon said earlier in the week about Darvish. "I've not been worried in any way, shape or form about performance. That's not a concern. He's performed very well. I'm looking for him to be able to adapt and adjust to us, that he feels comfortable here, and he likes it here. I totally believe a guy of his abilities ... if he likes the method and the exchange between his manager and his coaches, and his catchers, good things are going to follow."

Maddon admits his Japanese is horrible, so it helps that Darvish, 31, can converse easily in English. The Cubs also have learned he's a better hitter than expected and trains very diligently.

"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."

Darvish's goal? He just wants to be consistent. He got a sneak peek at the Cubs last year during the National League Championship Series when Darvish pitched for the Dodgers, and beat them.

"My impression then was they get a lot of runs when they need them in crucial moments," Darvish said of the Cubs. "I think they had a really good team [then] and I think it goes for this season, too."

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