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How Yu Darvish can resurrect his Cubs’ career in 2019

After missing the vast majority of 2018 with a triceps strain and a stress reaction on his pitching elbow, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish is out to actually attempt to validate his contract in 2019. Signed to a six-year, $126 million contract with an opt-out clause after this season, Darvish has a ton of money still left to be earned, something that the Cubs could get out of due to how his contract is worded for injuries.

Before signing with the Cubbies, Darvish enjoyed great amounts of success with the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom he was with in 2017 before signing with Chicago. Brought in to be the team’s ace at Wrigley, Darvish was unable to live up to those expectations, leading to why the Cubs finished one game short of winning the National League Central division last season, dropping a game 163 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The rotation seemed to be in a bit of shambles without Darvish, outside of Jon Lester and Jose Quintana. Tyler Chatwood was also brought in last offseason to be an arm to fill the middle of the rotation, but he was quite a flop after having a successful career pitching for the Colorado Rockies.

Darvish is one of the most important players on this current Cubs roster, mostly because of how big of a chunk of salary he eats up. For a cash-strapped team that is trying to pay its way to a title, they must get as much production out of its high-cost stars as possible.

To improve his standing with Cubs fans and help bring the Cubs back to their expected levels of success, here are three ways Darvish can help resurrect his Cubs’ career in 2019.

Use spring training to get healthy

In order to make him look better to Cubs fans, he has to be on the diamond, something that can only happen if he improves his health. He was reported to have gotten to spring training early to work on building up the strength in his arm again, which is a welcomed sign for Cubs fans.

While the team will be without Brandon Morrow for sure to begin the season, Darvish will be brought along slowly to make sure there are no more issues stemming from his injuries. If a pitcher suffers a relapse during a recovery period, it is much, much more difficult to come back healthy from that.

Do not expect Darvish to come back until mid-May

Extending spring training may be the best option for Darvish, helping him go through various simulated games and work against their minor league affiliates too, preparing him for game speed. Pitchers like Greg Holland have used an extended form of spring training to fully prepare for the regular season, but Holland’s reason was due to being signed late by the St. Louis Cardinals and not due to injury.

For Darvish, the team will have a plan put together for him to maximize his rest while efficiently building up his arm strength. The Cubs know that their high-priced asset will need to be treated with care, as he has seemed fragile in his first year with Chicago.

Be more efficient

When he does come back, Darvish will most certainly be on a pitch count to help build up strength and durability. With that being the case, Darvish will need to make effective work of his opponent for the day, in an act to help save the Cubs bullpen which is looking like a bit of a sore spot going into 2019.

Darvish’s task list will need to feature being more effective on fewer pitches, changing up his pitch array to throw his full arsenal and get used to working with runners on. Having Willson Contreras behind the plate catching makes watching runners easier, but Darvish will need to do his part in holding runners and keeping them close as well.

For the Cubs to forget about what happened in their 2018 collapse, Darvish will need to be a big factor in their 2019 plans. While not being at full strength, any type of performance and results the team receives from Darvish will most certainly be better than what they got out of him last season.