Cubs optimistic on health of pitchers Yu Darvish and Craig Kimbrel


MILWAUKEE — Yu Darvish has a simple cure for his ailing forearm:

"Take a lot of medicine."

That was the right-handers tongue-in-cheek response Friday when asked what he's found as the best remedy for tightness in his forearm that caused him to miss his last start.

All that medicine must be working, because Darvish is good to take the ball in his regular spot in the rotation Saturday against the Brewers. He threw a 29-pitch bullpen Thursday and felt good Friday, but he wouldn't comment on any possible limitations in terms of innings or pitch count.

He also said he first felt the forearm tightness more than two months ago - July 3 in Pittsburgh, to be specific, when he threw a two-seam fastball to Colin Moran in the sixth inning. Darvish ultimately struck out Moran and faced four more hitters that day before coming out of the game.

Right after that, he volunteered to take the first game coming out of the All-Star Break and he's been on a tear ever since, pitching to a 2.93 ERA and 0.80 WHIP while striking out 72 batters and walking just 3 in 55.1 innings.

In the nine starts since he first suffered the forearm injury, Darvish has gone at least 6 innings in seven outings, so he has been able to manage the issue for the most part.

No matter what happens with the forearm injury, the Cubs will closely monitor Darvish throughout the rest of the season as he has already jumped 112.1 innings this year compared to 40 in his injury-plagued 2018 campaign.

All five pitchers in the Cubs Opening Day rotation have made at least 24 starts this season and when Darvish takes the ball Saturday, he will become the leader of the pack with 28 starts.

The Cubs are hoping closer Craig Kimbrel follows a similar path as Darvish where a bit of rest can go a long way. The veteran pitcher went on the injured list Thursday with right elbow inflammation, but an MRI showed no structural damage and he still hopes to return when first eligible next Thursday.

"No [I'm not concerned]," Kimbrel said Friday. "Anytime you have some discomfort and you schedule [the MRI], you're gonna think of it a little bit. But what we got back was encouraging - to know that maybe I can just rest it and it will go away."

Kimbrel said the elbow issue did not crop up on one certain pitch and it was more of a gradual injury. He felt it impacted his outing on Sunday - when he gave up a 3-run homer to Christian Yelich - and knew he needed to back off.

The plan right now is for Kimbrel to not throw a baseball and simply rest and receive treatment for a few days. He said he and the Cubs have a plan about his throwing progression from there, but doesn't want to divulge it yet.

In the meantime, the Cubs are confident in the rest of the arms they have down in the bullpen. Since Aug. 28, they lead baseball with a 1.86 ERA and half of the earned runs they've given up came on that one pitch Kimbrel threw Sunday.

"Oh they've been unbelievable," Kimbrel said. "Guys have been stepping up in big spots and getting big outs. Now here in September, we got a lot of guys down there. Being able to piece together what we think is the best matchup through each and every game and guys are gonna be healthy, I think that's huge. We need to go on a good roll and those guys are gonna be a big part of that down the stretch."

If Kimbrel is able to return from the IL when first eligible Thursday, he will rejoin the Cubs with 17 games left in the regular season.

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