Yu Darvish has been much more comfortable in his own skin this season in Chicago, though he’s always been almost shockingly transparent about his mindset. Some of that may have been misconstrued in the past due to his use of an interpreter, but there’s no mistaking his candor these days.
And when it comes to talking about his return to Dodger Stadium, the site of a World Series meltdown in 2017 that left him mentally scarred, he’s almost been a little too open. He talked about that last season with Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, saying that he still lived with the regret of not being able to deliver for the fans.
“More than what was actually written, what bothered me was the idea that Dodgers fans were disappointed,” Darvish said.
The righty was with the Cubs when they visited LA last season, but he was not active and was still dealing with so much elbow pain that he couldn’t even participate in regular games of catch. That would continue throughout the season as his stress reaction remained undiagnosed until the Cubs finally opted for a more invasive arthrogram MRI.
“Last year when I came here, that was the worst day of my life,” Darvish told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers Friday in LA. “F—ing pain. This year I’ve been feeling good. My fastball was maybe my best bullpen this year.”
Between the disappointment with his health and performance to that point and his anxiety about being back in LA, Darvish hung back out of sight in the dugout last season. That won’t be possible this time around, since he’ll be taking the mound Saturday night as the Cubs try to get back in the win column. Lucky for him, LA traffic should keep the buzz down for a while.
“The Dodgers don’t have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side, Darvish joked with Hernandez recently.
He also talked about his appreciation for the Dodgers organization, particularly the way they allowed him to be himself after leaving a more strict Rangers team. That time in LA following the trade reinvigorated his career and may have kept Darvish from retiring, or at least that’s what he’s said. So can understand why he felt such an obligation to the team and the fans to deliver a title.
Rather than letting that drag him down as it did last season, Darvish says he’s now viewing it as a learning experience that he wants to use to propel himself. Like facing Jake Arrieta, the man he essentially replaced with the Cubs, at Wrigley earlier this season, perhaps taking the mound in Chavez Ravine will exorcise those demons once and for all.
Is it exceptionally wishful thinking to believe that a strong performance Saturday night could finally push Darvish over the hump with Cubs. Yeah, probably. At the same time, it’s not inconceivable that this start could spur a long-awaited catharsis that enables him to truly let go of the last vestiges of baggage he’s been dragging around.
“I would like for that to happen,” Darvish said about the possibility of making another postseason start in LA. “Of course. The Dodgers will be there if you think about it. If we win, we will have the chance to play them in the playoffs. I would like for that to happen.”