When baseball returns, Darvish likely to take No. 1 slot in Cubs' rotation

  • Chicago Cubs' Yu Darvish pitches in a simulated game at spring training in Sloan Park, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz.

    Chicago Cubs' Yu Darvish pitches in a simulated game at spring training in Sloan Park, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. Associated Press

Updated 4/21/2020 8:40 PM

Here's the good news from Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred:

"I fully anticipate baseball will return this season," he reportedly said in an email to all 30 big-league teams on Monday.


Here's the expected follow from Manfred:

"It is very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for resumption of our season," he said.

Baseball has been in limbo since March 12, but the game should be back at some point this spring or summer -- fans or no fans.

Teams will be ready to go when it is safe to return from the coronavirus pandemic, and the early focus is going to be on starting pitching.

How long will it take them to get ready again? And what are rotations going to look like?

When the season does get going, typical five-man rotations are likely to be expanded to six or seven until the top starters get stretched out.

New Cubs manager David Ross would need to take a much closer look during an upcoming abbreviated spring training before making a decision on his "Opening Day" starter, but Yu Darvish was the favorite to get the nod when baseball shut down.

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Ross never made any official announcement, but he did drop a pretty big hint to reporters on March 11.

"Obviously, I've got a ton of confidence in Jon (Lester)," Ross said. "It's just, you put your best foot forward to start the season and I think Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks are a tick above Jon right now."

In the second half of last season, Darvish's performance was above just about every starter in the majors.

A huge disappointment in 2018 -- his first season with the Cubs after signing a six-year, $126 million contract -- Darvish was fully healthy after the all-star break last season and the 33-year-old righty got his confidence back.

That added up to a 2.76 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 81⅔ innings over 13 starts in the second half.

Darvish commanded the big contract after a successful six-year run with the Rangers and Dodgers, and he showed why after the break last season with an amazing array of secondary pitches.

"(Four-seam) fastball, cutter, hard cutter, slider, knuckle-curveball, two-seam (fastball)," Darvish said. "Yeah, six pitches."

Keeping opposing hitters guessing also keeps them off balance, and few starters did it better than Darvish from 2012-17. He hopes to pick up where he left off when baseball returns.

"I have a lot more confidence," Darvish said. "I feel my spin efficiency is getting better, that's why hitters swing and miss a lot."

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