The #Return of Yu Darvish continues to chug along slowly, but surely, with the latest update continuing a long line of positivity:
Darvish sim game set for Wed. Bryant might do some things on the field but no indication he’s closer to returning.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 6, 2018
After throwing three bullpen sessions – the latest of which was rather long and featured pain-free use of his entire arsenal – Darvish is ready to move onto the next step: simulated games. From what we gather, this probably won’t be the only simulated game in which he participates, which means you can probably expect another one on normal rest around Monday.
After that, however, if everything goes right and feels right, Darvish could hit the road with one of the Minor League affiliates, perhaps even starting for the first time around Saturday the 18th, Thursday the 23rd, and, finally, Tuesday the 28th. From there he would be perfectly set up to make his first start back on Sunday, September 2nd in Philadelphia. That is obviously the optimistic schedule and offered only for guidance, but the timing does make sense. It’s also fairly cautious and deliberate, if you ask me.
For one, waiting to re-introduce Darvish until September makes the most sense for roster-logistic reasons. Obviously, you don’t hold out a potential ace during a race for the postseason any longer than he needs to be out, but given the fact that he re-injured himself last time and how much more frictionless the move would be after rosters expand in September, it’s kind of a no-brainer. In other words, it’s not just better for him, it’s the easiest path forward. I also really like the idea of re-debuting him on the road (instead of Wrigley) to relieve some unnecessary pressure, but I don’t know how big of an influence that should or will have on the decision.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Darvish won’t need more simulated games or rehab starts than we guessed here (let alone have another set-back), but it is worth pointing out that the both the Triple-A I-Cubs and Double-A Smokies’ schedules end on September 3rd. All things considered, I bet this is close to how it plays out. But that’s not the only good news.
As Jesse Rogers indicates, the Cubs might just let Kris Bryant start doing things on the field again, which would be exciting given Maddon’s comments about getting him back up to the big leagues quickly thereafter. But as positive as we’d like to be, there really isn’t a lot there to go on with the information provided, especially knowing that Bryant is not yet swinging the bat, which is the very thing that was causing him the most discomfort. So we’ll put a pin in that for now.
Elsewhere, Anthony Bass (shoulder) begun his rehab assignment with a perfect inning at Triple-A Iowa yesterday, striking out one batter in the process. When he does finally return to the big leagues, he’ll return to a 2.93 ERA and 2.77 FIP over 15.1 IP. As for who he’ll replace in the bullpen, well, Randy Rosario is probably your obvious answer, but it all depends on a couple things. First: how quickly he returns. If it takes Bass long enough to get back – or he suffers a set-back of some kind along the way – the Cubs might elect to wait until September 1st, when rosters expand anyway (there’s also the chance that someone else gets hurt, and the question is quite easy to answer). And 2) what happens with Brandon Morrow.
Bass certainly seems to be ahead of Morrow (biceps) at this point, though, which means whomever’s spot he’d take in the bullpen should be unaffected by Morrow in the short-term, but eventually their paths could cross (Bass, you’ll recall, does not have minor league options). Especially because, ta-da! Morrow is playing catch again:
Hello from hot Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Brandon Morrow is playing catch in the outfield and now Yu Darvish has joined him. So, that's not bad.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 6, 2018
If you recall, Morrow did make about 30 throws on Thursday, but we haven’t heard much since then. Of course, actions speak louder than words, so seeing him out there playing catch is probably a pretty good sign. With any luck, we’ll soon hear that he, too, has begun throwing off the mound, getting situated for a bullpen session or two or however many, and heading out for a rehab assignment of his own.
I really don’t think I can undersell how important it would be for the Cubs to get their starting third baseman, a top of the rotation starting pitcher, their closer, and a quality reliever back for the final month of the season, so I won’t. It will be huge and I really hope it all happens. We seem to be in the final stretch, so everyone cross their fingers and toes.