Whenever you’re waiting for an injured player – especially a pitcher – to come back from a lengthy injury, the time between updates can feel like forever. And of course, there’s always going to be that brief moment of suspense when you see that there’s news, but aren’t sure if it’s of the good or bad variety just yet – I really kind of hate it. But today we have more decidedly good news to share about starting pitcher Yu Darvish and his return to the Major Leagues.
After hearing that his Tuesday bullpen session went *VERY* well, our long, suspenseful wait for the next step is over: Yu’s moving forward with a simulated game!
Yu Darvish's next step is to throw a simulated game, likely in two or three days, Jim Hickey says. After that, he'll probably throw one more simulated game and then rehab start(s) begin to come into play.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 1, 2018
According to pitching coach Jim Hickey, the Cubs’ big offseason acquisition is moving away from the bullpen sessions phase and onto the next step: simulated games. And although this was always going to be the next step, there was a chance that Darvish would need to throw yet another bullpen session first, given the 10 pitches of “severe” pain before a mechanical adjustment in his last one (well, there was also a chance that Darvish had another set-back, but I don’t really want to think about that right now).
In any case, he apparently feels good enough to move on, which means we’re cruising right along, so … HOORAY!
If we map this out a bit, conservatively assuming Darvish’s simulated game happens this Saturday (3 days), his second simulated game could come next Wednesday or Thursday, meaning he could began a rehab assignment as soon as August 13th or 14th. From there, he’ll likely need – in my estimation – at least 2-3 (probably 3) rehab starts in the Minor leagues, which brings us right to the end of August/beginning of September.
Given that rosters expand in September anyway, that figures to be the most frictionless time to add him back into the fold. At that point Mike Montgomery might be bumped back into the bullpen, which could help him sharpen up and adjust back to relief life for the playoffs, though I suppose that depends on just how well everyone is pitching (including the Cubs newest starter, Cole Hamels, who debuts later today).
For now, this is very good news. Darvish isn’t just on his way back, he’s on his way back with enough time to re-adjust to the Majors and get ready for October. That could really increase the Cubs chances of doing something special. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here, but I’m feeling optimistic.