Chicago Cubs: A change of scenery might benefit Yu Darvish

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 10: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on April 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 10: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on April 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

As Yu Darvish continues to try to find his footing as a starter with the Chicago Cubs, maybe the best case scenario for him is simply pitching from the bullpen moving forward.

The Chicago Cubs do not want to publicly admit that the signing of Yu Darvish hasn’t gone particularly well thus far for them. The organization, like the rest of us fans, can simply tune into his starts to see the painfully obvious.

Unfortunately, here we are in Year 2 of the “Darvish Saga”, and no one within the organization knows for sure what they’re getting from Darvish with each start made. That’s pretty alarming, given the amount of money Epstein is piling up in trucks, as we speak, to send over to him.

While the Cubs, and fans alike, are clamoring for more consistent play from the $126 million “former ace” veteran, that wishful thinking might not become reality anytime soon. As long as Darvish continues to be a starter…that is.

If he’s not issuing free passes to opposing hitters on a routine basis, Darvish seemingly still finds a way to cut short a promising outing by serving up dingers left and right. That’s just who Darvish appears to be at this point: a shell of a former ace, who worries more now about what the displeased fan sitting just above the home-plate umpire thinks of him, rather than focusing on actually retiring the side in the 5th inning of a game.

Darvish may end up getting out of his pro-long rut, while proving all his doubters wrong in the process. But doing all that is going to require him to pitch well in a string of starts. Not just in a start here and there that gives fans false hope that he’s finally turned the corner for good. Those are called blimps of greatness, not long stretches.

If Darvish continues to struggle on the mound moving forward, maybe Joe Maddon should have him just pitch from the bullpen, given the lack of depth already presented there due to injuries to key players such as Brandon Morrow, as well as underwhelming performances from Carl Edwards Jr., among others to date.

Having a player such as Darvish pitch from the bullpen, even for just a brief time, may end up benefiting both the Cubs and himself in the long-run.

A change of scenery can do wonders for a player who is having a difficult time fitting in an established role. While Darvish won’t be changing teams anytime soon, having a different set of responsibilities on the mound in a new role out of the bullpen might just be the cure that the doctor ordered for him.

We’ve seen players on the Cubs in previous years enjoy successful stints as relievers following their runs as established starters. Kerry Wood immediately comes to mind.

Like Darvish is experiencing now in his 30’s, Wood had also been more susceptible to the injury bug with more wear and tear on his body from pitching too many innings as a starter. All the nagging injuries ended up derailing his days as a starter once he turned 30, but he ended up swallowing his pride, becoming a very reliable reliever during the remainder of his career.

Darvish can also thrive in a bullpen role similar to Wood, given he still has nasty “wipe-out” stuff in his arsenal of pitches. He’d likely be a great set-up man/closer for the Cubs moving forward, if he can embrace a fresh start with the bullpen. There’d also be less wear-and-tear on his body pitching in relief. Furthermore, he’d only be facing a few batters at a time with each appearance, rather than having to pitch against the same group of hitters for a second or third time down the lineup, where by that time they’re more familiar with how he pitches.

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Epstein and the whole Cubs’ organization can always put Darvish back in the starting rotation at any given time, but experimenting with various roles while the season’s just begun might be the best strategy for all parties involved, especially if Darvish continues to struggle as a starter.

At this point, all options should be explored when determining how to get the most out of Darvish this season. There’s still plenty of time for him to figure things out on the mound. It just might come in a role that no one would have expected before the season began.