On the heels of Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish’s agent ripping ESPN analyst Alex Rodriguez for comments made during Sunday night’s national broadcast, Darvish and the Cubs received some good news on Tuesday.
The right-hander, who is on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched since May 20 due to right triceps tendinitis, threw 35 pain-free pitches during a bullpen session.
“For the first time in two months, I felt nothing from the first pitch, playing catch, to the last (pitch in the) bullpen session,” Darvish said through his interpreter, according to MLB.com. “This is the actual starting point. I need to build up the self-confidence from this point on. ...
“I threw all of my pitches, but command I still need to work on for all my pitches, including the fastball. ... I’m really excited because there was no pain.”
Darvish expects to throw a couple simulated innings in the bullpen in a few days, take a break and throw some more.
The controversy with A-Rod began when the former slugger criticized Darvish during the “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast of the Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game.
While ESPN’s broadcast showed the injured Darvish sitting in the dugout, Rodriguez accused the pitcher of being a distraction and questioned his commitment to his team.
“I think it was classless and bordered on unprofessional to take a little nugget of somewhat exaggerated information from one person that maybe he had history with and turning that into a spokesman for the entire team,” Joel Wolfe, Darvish’s agent, told The Athletic on Monday.
During Sunday’s game, Rodriguez began a lengthy discussion on Darvish’s down year, calling it “sobering” and “a debacle.”
“I mean, a guy to start a six-year contract with three of the worst months you could ever see,” Rodriguez said. “I know he threw a 10-pitch bullpen, then a 16-pitch bullpen, and then he said his arm was hurting. It’s gotten so bad around — now they won’t say this publicly — but it’s gotten so bad that they let him basically police and take control of his own rehab, which is scary, because they don’t want to create anything that he can kind of push back against.
“So he’ll let the team know when he’s ready, which, let me just tell you what that means to a clubhouse. You lose respect quickly. And my concern for him — because he’s a great young talent — is it may take two or three or four years and you may never get that back.”
On Tuesday, Darvish was asked if he feels the pressure of not having a return date to the mound.
“As much as it’s a mystery to you guys, it’s more of a mystery to myself because I’m the one trying to process it and grind through,” Darvish told reporters.
In his comments to The Athletic, Darvish’s agent also questioned Rodriguez’s credibility.
“If this story had come from a credible journalist, we might have shown some concern,” Wolfe said. “But it came from A-Rod, so we’re paying it little attention.”
Darvish has had a disappointing season since signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs, going 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA and being limited to just eight starts due to two stints on the disabled list. He experienced a setback at the end of June and then sought a second opinion.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon dismissed Rodriguez’s comments after Sunday night’s game, saying Darvish, 31, is not a distraction or a source of tension in the clubhouse.
“I totally disagree with that,” Maddon said. “Everyone knows what’s going on. We know there is an injury there. We support his recovery. Everybody in there knows, and everyone in the coaches’ room knows also, throughout the organization. It’s unfortunate that it was relayed that way, but it’s not true.”
Wolfe went a step further in criticizing Rodriguez, comparing the situation to Rodriguez’s playing days.
“During A-Rod’s absurd comments, the video shows that Darvish was right there on the top step in the dugout cheering on his teammates, which is what you want from somebody like that. He wasn’t hiding out in Mesa at the spring training complex or back home like A-Rod was when he was suspended.”
Darvish said on Tuesday, “The best I could is to live up to what Joe’s said of me. I’m just going to hope to God I’m going to return healthy.”
—Field Level Media